Maizex Seeds Inc.
For 30 years, Maizex Seeds Inc. president Dave Baute has run the company on certain core principles: provide top quality hybrid corn seed and soybean, understand market demands, innovate constantly and building strong relationships with farmers by improving their operation. Over the years, Maizex customers have returned the favour, helping the company become the largest Canadian-owned hybrid corn supplier.
“The closer you can match your offer and your delivery of that offer with what the customer wants, the better, more effective company you have,” said Baute in a recent interview with The Canadian Business Journal. “You have to have the courage to do things differently, you have to take a lot of risk, and make decisions quickly.”
The company has industry leading experience, including the agronomic expertise to deliver top-performing corn hybrids and soybean. It is passionate about innovating seed development and production and has the research and technology to develop new products for the market.
“We spend a lot of time ensuring the quality of our seed. Our product offer is continually improving. We turn over that product offering very quickly to take advantage of new technologies and new advancements in genetics,” Baute explains. “We’re driven to satisfy customer needs, and that reflects in their level of satisfaction.”
In July, Maizex held a 30th anniversary open house. More than 500 guests visited the company’s agronomy site and tour stations to see its latest agronomic strategies up close, such as late season nitrogen application, seed field production and corn breeding.
Planting hybrid seed corn is a complicated process. It requires more time, expense and expertise than other commercial crops. Instead of planting a variety of seeds, a hybrid seed grower plants what is called “inbreds” which cross to produce a seed variety. Throughout the process, the grower must ensure the seed quality and purity. The hybrid crop can be drought resistance, have excellent standability and planted in various conditions and climates.
Baute explains that the Maizex brand contains the best corn trait technologies and hybrids from over 13 global corn breeding programs. Access to several technology and genetic resources increases the diversity of the company’s hybrids and genetic diversity reduces risk and produces higher yields.
The company also treats these genetics with advanced insect resistance and herbicide tolerance technologies, so the seed produces higher yields, consistent performance, and exceptional standability. “Seed price has gone up a lot. It’s expensive seed now,” Baute says. “The expectations at the grower level are very high as far as the quality of the seed go. They are paying a fair amount of money. Every seed better grow.”
In a Stratus Ag Research survey conducted in the summer of 2015, Maizex customers rated the company’s corn seed with the highest percentage of “very satisfied” ratings across the industry.
A Unique Production Cycle
Innovative techniques are evident in the Maizex production cycle. Handling, drying and processing hybrid seed corn requires extensive expertise to avoid damage and maintain a high germination rate. During the production cycle, Baute explains that each point allows for the least amount of handling ensuring the highest quality seed. To do this, Maizex growers harvest the seed corn on the ear then husk and sort it in the field to reduce handling and potential injury to the seed.
The next step, drying the corn, is also a complex process. Because seed corn is usually harvested with about 40 per cent moisture content, it must be dried up to 13 per cent in order to store safely. Reducing the moisture so drastically requires gentle and accurate drying to avoid cracking the kernels. Maizex dries the corn in its proprietary single-pass dryers. With a lower than average temperature, the dryer reduces the moisture and preserves seed germination and strength. After drying, the grower shells, sizes and grades the seed in the company’s special single-floor conditioning plant so the seeds are never dropped or damaged.
“Every step of the process is just gentle enough, compared to our competitors, that it offers a stronger seed and a higher germination rate,” Baute says.
Another example of its innovative approach is the company’s harvest and husk machine. Baute describes the machine as a harvester and husker combined in one. He says the significant difference is its octagonal digital sorting. “It’s the first machine to use digital octagonal sorting to recycle ears that still have husk remaining after it goes through the husking machine.”
“All those little steps add up to a big difference in the field,” he continues, referring to the cycle as a “microbrewery philosophy to producing corn.” “It’s just one thing we’ve developed over the years of product conditioning.”
The husking and sorting machine is not the only unique aspect of the Maizex production equipment. Baute adds that the single-pass dryer and seed conditioning plant are both key elements that put it ahead of the competition.
Building Trust, Growing Business
In this business, as with any other business, considerable importance is placed on building lasting relationships with customers. The success of the Maizex brand is a direct result of the integrity and passion of its staff. Baute explains that the seed a farmer plants is a big choice that affects the productivity of his or her business. “We’ve attracted employees that have a close relationship to the farmers,” he says. “They understand how important that seed purchase decision is. I cannot stress enough how special the relationship is between farmers and their suppliers.”
Baute adds: “There are very few people that come to the farm and get close enough to a farmer and farm family to give them advice and help them through the very important decisions like seed input and other crop input decisions.”
To ensure that farmers get the right seed, Maizex employees will look at a farmer’s operation and suggest a product on a field-by-field basis. “That has earned us a bigger share on our customer’s farms year after year,” he says.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to do, but we certainly cannot do it without the Canadian farmers. Our success is in their hands and we thank them for their confidence.”
The Maizex brand has grown steadily for the past 15 years. Currently, Baute says it is focusing on brand share and distribution growth. In particular, the company is getting new representation in the market. “We sort of reached that critical mass a few years ago,” he says. “People like what they see, so there’s a high level of interest from people to represent our brand in the market. So we’re following up and we will continue to follow up on those opportunities.”
In the summer 2015, Ontario introduced new rules that prevent seed growers from using neonicotinoid-treated seeds, unless there is a demonstrated pest problem. “It adds a whole new element to our industry’s way of doing things,” Baute says. He is confident that because Maizex is a small, agile company it will be able to overcome the challenge. “In this industry change is ever present and your ability to adapt and make decisions is very powerful stuff.”