The global commercial seed market is estimated to be worth over $25 billion annually, with the top 10 seed companies representing close to half of world seed sales, according to a report by Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics.
So how does a smaller, independently-owned American seed company compete with the large seed corporations that have broader brand recognition and deeper pockets?
Ethan Rosen, marketing manager for Pure Line Seeds in Lodi, WI, says it always comes down to building close, long-term relationships with its customers.
“In our decades of experience, we’ve found that it’s important to cultivate a staff that values every single customer, large or small, as a friend,” Rosen said.
“Our goal is to build strong relationships by delivering consistently high quality product and service, year after year. We accomplish that with employees who have spent their entire lives in the seed industry and by enlisting strategic partners from reputable universities, research centers, and other global companies,” he added.
“That has allowed us to become more than just a seed producer. We diversified and became nimble enough to expand and become a distributor, marketer, and broker of seeds to more than 40 countries worldwide.”
Rosen said smaller companies like Pure Line Seeds also have to continually look forward and focus on training the next generation of seed leaders. By hiring young professionals who are well-versed in all facets of agriculture, and having experienced company personnel available to take time to pass on their knowledge and experience to the next generation, they have invested wisely in their future through their most valuable asset — their employees.
While employees are the keys to a company’s long-term success, innovation is an equally important element in remaining competitive, Rosen said.
“We’re pushing innovation with our own research department and with private and public researchers worldwide,” he explained. “Our breeding practices are non-GMO, and through those practices our researchers handle our own patented varieties other companies’ varieties and open varieties.”
Rosen went on to explain that “our varieties maintain high quality standards because we do a large part of our business in the processing market, which is the canning, frozen, and baby food industry, and we are taking that same high quality product to fresh market growers.”
Pure Line Seeds has added more than 35 new vegetable species since launching its business in the Pacific Northwest as a small regional seed producer of peas and beans. Now it offers beets, corn, squash, watermelon, peppers and an assortment of other fruits and vegetables.
“Employing a business model that emphasizes lateral integration, we’ve been able to add varieties and remain competitive with other seed producers by building relationships with these seed producers,” Rosen explained.
“Along with the other seed producers, we recognize the importance of having a network of customers and partners in place and using our connections to increase sales by bringing our services and quality products to fresh market growers as well as home gardeners. Seed companies our size must work hard at developing relationships with distributors, producers, and growers all over the world if they want to compete.”
The bottom line for small seed companies is they must continue to push innovation, develop the next generation of seed professionals, and above all, stay true to their roots.
“For more than 60 years now, we’ve proven that by staying an American family-owned company that treats customers as friends, and having the ability to adapt quickly to changes in the marketplace, we can be a true industry leader,” Rosen said. “Our values and our vision have guided us in the past, and will continue to do so for the future.”
For more information, please go to their website at or contact Ethan Rosen, Pure Line Seeds, at