What would you rather get for birthday? A kilo of gold or a kilo of tomato seeds? Contrary to what you may now think, this is a serious question and the answer might rather surprise you. While a kilo of Gold costs approximately €40,000, a kilo of raw tomato seeds is almost twice as expensive with the price hovering around €80,000!
One of the companies working with that “red gold” is Incotec, an Enkhuizen-based Dutch company which has recently been bought by Croda International, a British specialty chemical company, where PGGM has an ownership stake.
Croda’s Incotec is one of the largest global players in seed enhancement, a relatively small but fast growing field in agriculture. Seed enhancement means a large range of improvements that are done to the seed after it is harvested but before it is sown. Seed enhancement does not involve any genetic manipulation of a seed but is simply a physical and biological treatment to make the seed healthier and generate higher yields.
As the global population starts to approach 10 billion, being able to grow enough food on the same amount of land is becoming more challenging. The United Nations has recognized a problem and made ending hunger its second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).
Similarly, a leading global medical journal, The Lancet, has just published a comprehensive plan to tackle the challenge of feeding 10 billion mouths. A sustainable intensification of food production through natural and ecologically friendly means is mentioned as one of the key recommendations.
There are many ways to treat a seed but a good example involves applying a small amount of crop protection products (such as herbicides and pesticides) directly on the seed rather than spraying them later on the fields.That does not only help the farmer save some money on buying expensive protection products but also saves the environment from absorbing large amounts of chemicals that can be dangerous when applied in too large amounts.
This is only one example of what Croda and some of their other products include the following:
Priming treatment – improving the growing potential of the seeds and allowing them to grow faster and uniformly, and making a specific seed and crop grow in an environment (e.g. due to too hot or cold weather) where it naturally will not grow;
Encrusting and Pelleting – putting seeds into bigger pellets to improve the sowing ability of the farmer and to create more seed space, which can be used to apply crop protection and other active ingredients;
Film coating – adding an extra protective layer on the seed to prevent it from degradation during the sowing process;
Seed disinfection – getting rid of various seed-borne pathogens that might hurt the crop and limit the yields.
Seeds are precious. A good farmer can produce 20kg of tomatoes from a single seed so it is not surprising that he treats it with great care. Through our investment in Croda, PGGM can not only support that farmer in increasing his yield but also benefit financially from this fast growing area of agriculture.
Marek Troszczynski van Genderen is Senior Investment Manager at PGGM.
This article first appeared on the PGGM website (with graphics) here.