Triple Austria

Growing with the demands

Markus Petermaier, the head of our consulting office, has more than doubled KWS’ share of the sugarbeet seed market in Austria in the space of three years. Our high-performance latest-generation varieties helped him achieve that.

Until 2019, we had no influence on multiplication of our own seed in Austria. Markus Petermaier succeeded in changing the system.

Sometimes everything just clicks: The right person occupies the right position at the right time, has the right products and seizes the opportunity. Markus Petermaier is just such a person. In 2014, he changed both his place of residence and his employer for love’s sake and joined KWS in Austria as head of the sugarbeet consulting office.

Four years later, in March 2018, he attended a meeting of beet farmers. Everyone already knew each other: Until 2014, Markus Petermaier worked in the agricultural and energy divisions at a warehouse in Upper Austria. As a KWS consultant, he now told a representative from the sugar industry at the meeting: “We have to change something. We can’t let our new generations of high-performance varieties CONVISO® SMART and CR+ be multiplied under license in the future; that requires KWS’ know-how.

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“In 2019, we launched the Triple Austria project in cooperation with the sugar industry and Austrian associations. Up until 2019, seed was multiplied in Austria under license. The company Österreichische Rübensamenzucht Gesellschaft did that for the Austrian beet market. Even back then, we realized that the requirements for sugarbeet seed would change a lot over the next few years.”

Multiplication under license is a relic of the past. “It used to be necessary in order to safeguard the supply of food, and for that you first need seed.” Österreichische Rübensamenzucht Gesellschaft (ÖRZG) – an almost wholly-owned subsidiary of the sugar industry – specialized in multiplying sugarbeet seed under license for the Austrian market. Breeders like KWS therefore gave up their genetic material and could no longer contribute their expertise in the field of multiplication and processing. The system of multiplication under license meant farmers did not have access to the latest-generation varieties.

“However, the demands on varieties have changed significantly due to climatic conditions, the elimination of chemical pesticides, diseases and new resistances,” says Markus Petermaier. Farmers demanded solutions that would continue to secure their yields. The ability to change varieties more quickly is an important aspect in this regard. “We have multiple-stress tolerant varieties the competition doesn’t have. However, these high-performance varieties require our own KWS know-how in all process stages from multiplication to the finished pellet.”

Market share grown from 30 to more than 75 percent

The ÖRZG would have still have been provided with standard varieties – but not our new CR+ generation of varieties and the CONVISO® SMART herbicide tolerance system.

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“We recognized very early on that CONVISO® SMART and CR+ would be of great importance for beet cultivation in Austria. We rapidly established both systems on the Austrian market with our partners. By the 2022 sowing season, we’ll have a market share of around 50 percent for CONVISO® SMART and over 25 percent for CR+.”

The increases in market share these varieties delivered are apparent from a comparison with multiplication under license: While KWS’ market share used to be around 30 percent, it has now more than doubled. KWS’ three objectives for the Austrian market – hence the name Triple Austria – can be summarized as follows: first, the end of multiplication under license, second, the launch of CONVISO® SMART and third, the establishment of CR+ genetic material.

From a licensing model to contract multiplication

Nevertheless, the ÖRZG and multipliers did not have to fear any loss as a result of the restructuring: “You have to give Austrians credit where it’s due: They have many years of experience in seed multiplication.” KWS continues to provide easy-to-multiply varieties adapted to local conditions to ÖRZG, which then multiplies this seed under contract for other KWS markets outside Austria.

The switchover took three years.

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