U.S. ag-tech platform buys two Manitoba seed breeding companies

Debbie Lawes
November 4, 2020

The recent sale of two Manitoba seed breeding companies has given a Silicon Valley tech unicorn its first research beachhead on the Canadian prairies.

The Farmers Business Network (FBN) is a farmer-to-farmer network and e-commerce platform based out of San Carlos, California that expanded into Canada in 2018. FBN Canada announced that it has acquired two Winnipeg companies: seed R&D firm Haplotech as well as the Canadian canola breeding program and research pipeline of San Diego-based agtech company Cibus.

The acquisitions also position FBN Canada to eventually commercialize canola seed, the second biggest crop in Canada and a market the company said “has long been dominated by too few industry players”.

“For too long canola farmers have been subject to industry consolidation, leaving them with fewer price choices. We're excited to join FBN Canada and provide a path to commercialize canola seed and bring Canadian farmers true market competition for their business,” Haplotech founder and president, Dr. Rale Gjuric said in an October 27 news release. Gjuric will now lead FBN Canada's seed R&D team.

Haplotech was established in early 2009 as a technical service business focused on applied genetics and plant breeding research. It specializes in doubled haploid production, trait integration, projects, and project management. It also has a research farm near LaSalle, Manitoba.

FBN Canada is also purchasing the Canadian canola seed business of Cibus, and acquired a licence to its new non-GMO canola hybrid (sulfonylurea-tolerant) which has shown to increase yields by as much as 40%. Cibus uses a patented gene editing technology, similar to CRISPR, called rapid trait development system to make targeted, precise changes to plant DNA to produce crops that avoid the GMO label. Currently, more than 90% of all canola grown in Canada is genetically modified.

Launched in 2014, FBN is an online farm-supply company that, in addition to purchasing inputs, also allows farmer members from the U.S., Canada and Australia to contribute and share anonymous, detailed agronomic data that can make farms more efficient, profitable and sustainable. FBN was recently described by Forbes as “one of the largest venture-backed agtech startups, worth a reported [USD] $1.75 billion”. The company’s 14,000 members farm about 40 million acres in Canada and the U.S.


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