Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


BIGWHEAT Report Summary

Project ID: 672990

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BIGWHEAT (An innovative approach to boost wheat yields)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The main objective of BigWheat project is to place a new products and related services on international market that will be applicable in international wheat breeding R&D and business sectors of both private and public seed companies. This approach directly contributes to the broadening of wheat genetic diversity, without which breeding cannot be successfully conducted, especially for the wide range of European agro climatic conditions. Desirable novel gene recombinants in wheat will offer new opportunities for further yield improvement, in order to overcome the problem of stagnating yields which pestered the production over the last 20 years and provide a sustainable supply of wheat, as a strategic raw material, in the coming decades. Presently, many international seed companies focus their attention on the new EU and non-EU wheat markets in Southern and Eastern Europe, Russian federation, former Soviet Republics, as well as on the very promising Middle East markets such as Turkey and Iran. Most of these companies do not have adapted genetic materials for millions of hectares in these regions while it is very expensive and time consuming to develop new varieties starting from scratch - by creating de novo desirable wheat genetic variability. BigWheat offers a part of the solution for them as well as for many other smaller companies. Application potential of the concept is outstanding since due to complexity of the wheat genome and many genetic recombination events which occur during hybridization and the first two generations of growing, it is practically impossible for different customers to select the same genetic material in consequent wheat breeding generations. This is important since the potential customers will not be competitors when buying our crosses, but they will be competitors in how these crosses are exploited. This is a desirable and positive market advantage for future commercialization, enabling sales of a single product and/or service to estimated 1,000 wheat breeding programs in EU and worldwide. Biogranum has full technical capacity to run the project. Personnel possess all necessary expertise needed, and the equipment is adequate.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

TASK 1. VALIDATION OF THE CONCEPT: In order to validate the BigWheat concept Biogranum produced a total of 2,500 crosses so far, using the most promising parents from the existing collections, proving the targeted number of crosses is achievable. It is concluded that the capacity for production of crosses can be significantly increased and Biogranum can produce up to 7,000 crosses annually. In order to examine the competition and competing solutions together with user demands and willingness to purchase innovative products and services, Biogranum performed various activities, including person to person contacts with key potential customers, e-mail campaigns, and a questionnaire/survey posted on the company web site. Conclusion drawn from all interactions with individuals from both private and public breeding and seed companies is that BigWheat product represents a brand new idea on the market and there is a great need for novel wheat genetic variability in both breeding and seed industry sectors. Biogranum is convinced that presently there are no comparable wheat crosses selling commercial solutions available at EU and world markets.
TASK 2. TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY: Technical feasibility covered a detailed analysis of the production process with identification of five milestones in project realization: field preparation and planting, nursing I, crossing, nursing II and harvest, trashing and packaging. In its essence the concept requires skilled personnel through the whole production process, not only during crossing, but in all other stages. To find the best possible location, Biogranum placed production on three geographically distinct locations, and determined the most appropriate one for production. There are two types of equipment needed for realization of the project excellence - basic agricultural machinery and specialized machines for breeding purposes. Biogranum already has access to both. Weather conditions can be a major threat to the production process, but with vast experience of Biogranum experts, such threats are anticipated and possible solutions are defined. Crossing stage is the most sensitive and crucial stage of the production process. Biogranum employees, together with several available technicians who can be employed during the crossing stage, ensure hybridization can be successfully completed. The technology used is able to comprehensively fulfill the intended production potentials, and assure project excellence. Diverse wheat collection comprised of more than 3000 wheat genotypes provides new possibilities for Biogranum to choose the best resources for further improvement of this concept. In further stages of the project it will be necessary to employ additional management and administrative workers in order to fully meet technology, finance, IPR and marketing challenges. Storage capacities are sufficient in this moment, but additional infrastructure investment is needed to provide an appropriate facility for preserving the long-term seed viability of both produced crosses and wheat genetic resources.
TASK 3. FINANCIAL FEASIBILITY: Biogranum conducted a financial analysis including start-up and available capital, identification of sources of finance, production and operating costs, prices of products and services, payback period and cash flow estimation, economic impact regarding potential for job creation, salaries of employees and sourcing local suppliers. Conclusion is that prospect for stable and continuous financing of BigWheat project is good, however until stable revenue streams are established, some challenges exist. Our assumption from the initial BigWheat proposal, that the investment will be returned in two years while Biogranum will make profit in the third year of the project, is fully confirmed by the feasibility study.
TASK 4. SWOT ANALYSIS: Based on SWOT analysis it is clear Biogranum has to challenge financial sustainability, improve brand visibility and promote its advantages compared to presently available solutions. Efforts must be invested in acquiring highly qualified experts who will dedicate themselves to contributing in BigWheat commercial and marketing advancement, securing continuous project excellence. Since BigWheat is based on a very innovative idea and is already launched via numerous channels Biogranum expects that in the coming years some competition will arise. Biogranum has to keep its advantage, innovatively and technologically. This approach includes measures which are going to make BigWheat as an ever-changing project, insisting on new innovation options and concept improvements. Biogranum will create a preventive plan to mitigate all disputes arising from complains and claims about the service and implement procedures to ensure customer satisfaction.
TASK 5. LEGAL ISSUES AND IPR: Biogranum was very active in evaluating IPR, having organized meetings with local experts from seed sector, Intellectual Property Consultants, Serbian Seed Association members and the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia. In regard to exploitation and IP protection of BigWheat, Biogranum will most probably execute formal implementation of two types of agreements: material transfer agreement (MTA) and confidential disclosure agreement (CDA). Biogranum repeated the Freedom To Operate (FTO) analysis and confirmed that there are no legal limitations to freely run BigWheat project operations.
TASK 6. MARKETING STRATEGY: In order to research the market, Biogranum conducted a comprehensive market study including: existence of interest of potential customers for our products and services, total and target market size, regional markets demands, structure of the market, accessibility to the market and possible ways to reach the market, key factors influencing the market, expected market share, competitors and their business models and solutions, unique selling points, potential customers’ expectations and determination of characteristics our products and services must have, and a 7P based quantitative and qualitative analysis. Study was conducted by using person to person interviews, large scale e-mail campaigns and an online questionnaire, and was primarily focused on the 7P model (product, price, promotion, place, packaging, positioning and people). Marketing strategy determined existence of great interest of potential customers for our products and services. As reason for their interest, they frequently mentioned: need to exploit new variability, getting faster and easier access to new genetic variability, reductions of cost related to F1 seed production, and curiosity. These are exactly the objectives the BigWheat project intended to target from the very beginning. There is no precise statistical data, but it is estimated that there are up to 1,000 wheat breeding programmes worldwide. EU presents 25% of total wheat seed production and it is estimated at 800 million euro. The market is structured in three segments, comprising of large multinational companies, middle-size breeding programs, and small - family owned breeding and seed production businesses. Biogranum concluded that the most appropriate solution to reach the market is via digital marketing channels such as search and email marketing, social media, display advertising, etc. Potential customers indicated they preferred to get acquainted with the products and services on internet and browse the database in order to inspect relevant data, as it is already displayed on Biogranum website. In regards to purchases, they preferred online orders, which is the most common way to conduct this type of business. The biggest challenge BigWheat faces is the rather conservative and traditional attitude in regard to innovations coming outside the company. An important task in further development of BigWheat is assuring the customer that benefits related to the product and services offered will be valuable and useful, and will bring significant contribution to the improvement of their breeding program and wheat seed business. Biogranum defined three unique selling points: combined genepools of East and West; very affordable and highly competitive price and an indispensable time-saving component. BigWheat product is based on exceptional genetic purity and high quality with intent to achieve good field performance. To fulfill excellent support service, we already addressed shipment issues by a contract with world renowned DHL service. Just for the first group of 400 crosses available for purchase, over 2,500 relevant data points are published in a database on Biogranum website, enabling customers to make most appropriate ordering decisions. Biogranum is in process of creating an interactive Q&A platform, together with scheduled web conferencing tool, so the support service will be of exceptional quality.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

"Numerous encounters with potential customers and discussions about BigWheat lead us to believe that there is not only an enormous demand for wheat crosses with heterosis, but also for novel wheat crosses production, valued for its genetic variability, and also for providing cross breeding as a service to breeding sector worldwide. In accordance, we expanded the BigWheat idea into a new business platform called ""Wheat Of Change"" (WOC), that rests on three main pillars: BWH (BigWheat heterosis) – the search for heterosis; G4G (Grain for gain) – enhancing winter cereal yields by introduction of novel genetic variability; CCB (cereals cross breeding) – cross breeding by order. Even though breeding and production in Serbia is a low cost process compared to western Europe and can present a blow to the competition, one of the greatest advantages of WOC platform is the time saving component. Our competitors are actually our intended customers, so it is not our intent to put our competitors out of business, but to help them evolve their breeding programs and improve the genetic variability of their material. The intention of Biogranum is to become European leading supplier of this product and services thus enabling significant local employment. Biogranum can reach up to 30 employees in next 4-6 years. The huge economic impact on local level can be achieved, especially for the developing countries like Serbia. BigWheat project will stimulate local economy and will contribute to EU agricultural, industrial, economic and social prosperity."

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