OXFORD STATION -- For the first time in Eastern Ontario, Syngenta's NK brand soybean seed is available in bulk to growers.
Bulk deliveries through the region's local NK dealer, Summit Seeds, will roll out beginning March 1 aboard a new 600-bushel delivery "tender" -- a truck trailer with five separate compartments.
Displayed at Summit Seeds' open house event here Dec. 2, the trailer is one element of an approximately $100,000 investment to accommodate bulk soybean seed sales. As the first dealer east of Highway 400 to adopt NK's "TruBulk" system, the firm also showcased a pair of 1,500-bushel storage bins and specialized seed treatment and inoculation equipment installed this past fall.
"It's pretty exciting. A lot of farmers have been handling their seed in bags. There's much more efficiency in getting large volumes," said Steve Gardner, general manager at Summit Seeds.
The trend follows in the steps of the fertilizer industry, which adopted the convenience of bulk delivery 20 years ago, according to Gardner.
Summit Seeds is the seventeenth NK dealer in Ontario to roll out TruBulk within the last three years. There are more than 300 of the systems in the U.S.
Bulk soybean seed is less prone to damage, saves the farmer time in the field, is available locally in several varieties from NK, and is precisely treated or inoculated (if so desired) before being shipped to the customer's location. There is also the environmental benefit of not having to throw away empty seed bags.
When manhandled in typical 50-lb bags, the seeds are damaged "every time they are moved," explained Dave Dunham, Syngenta Seeds TruBulk Coordinator.
"This is a whole lot gentler on the bean."
Bulk delivery is also easier on the farmer's back, allowing for quicker, mechanized refilling of the ever-larger seeding equipment out on the land today. The farmer needs to invest in a special gravity wagon with an attached auger to take advantage of bulk seed purchases. The unit stands by in the field and is used to top up the seeder when required.
At Summit Seeds, customer orders will flow out of the new smooth-walled bins located beside a large processing building in Oxford Station. The beans will travel by conveyer into a "surge hopper" atop a computer controlled "treater," where they will receive exacting amounts of fungicide and inoculant. A bypass will also allow for untreated orders.
"It's very finely adjusted," Dunham said of the process. "You're down to ounces of treatment."
It's an important sales feature for Gardner, who noted, "A lot of farmers wrestle with treating beans on their own."
TruBulk also includes strict standards to ensure no cross-contamination of orders, right down to the last bean.
Summit Seeds has several customers that grow at least 500 acres of soybeans each, he said, and TruBulk is considered especially advantageous for these bigger producers.
Overall higher sales were predicted for the dealer, which continues to offer beans by the bag for traditionalists.
"We've had good success for the people who have worked with this (TruBulk) system," said Don McClure, soybean development scientist for NK brand seeds. Of the dealers that have adopted it, "I don't think there's anybody who hasn't seen increased sales," he said.
As bulk delivery grows in popularity, NK's bag sales -- both 50 lb and one-ton tote bags -- have been declining, he added.
"We're very, very happy to have Summit joining the elite TruBulk System."
"If this helps sales, then that brings credibility to the program, and helps everybody throughout the business," echoed Dunham.
NK produces and grows seed for the Eastern Ontario market on a farm near Winchester and in Quebec.