The QualiBasic Seed Company, referred to by its initials QBS, is a seed company specialized in the production of and supply of early generation seed (pre-foundation and foundation) for seed companies. QBS is headquartered in Kenya, with two operational hubs in Zambia and South Africa.
QBS was established to address gaps in production of foundation seed particularly the challenge experienced by independent local seed companies in the production and supply of quality foundation seed which is a critical component of the seed value chain. Many independent seed companies are unable to operate a functional foundation seed production system due to the costs involved as a result of various complicated and time-consuming processes, specialised expertise and the lengthy period that is required from hand-off from the breeders to the time the seed is available for commercial seed production.
Foundation seed is the seed used to produce and multiply certified commercial seed for the farmer to plant. It is generated from what is known as breeder seed, which is original seed produced from best selected plant materials that meet required standards e.g. yield, resistance to insect-pest, diseases, drought etc. that is often handed over to seed companies for further multiplication and production of foundation seed. Quality foundation seed maintains purity and the characteristics of the breeder seed. Certified seed is a product of foundation seed.
Foundation seed maintenance requires highly technical skills and rigorous attention to detail. If this is not well managed, contamination of the elite hybrid can take place. The financial challenge and the technical know-how to consistently produce high quality pre-foundation and foundation seed stretches the capacity of many seed companies in Africa, yet access to high quality foundation seed is one of the most important criteria for the success of their business.
QBS will establish a strong business platform through building relationships with owners and managers of independent seed companies, breeders, research institutions, seed traders’ associations, regulators and respective governments. It will operate a centralised system that will make foundation seed production more effective and efficient, benefiting from economies of scale and use of the most ideal agro-ecologies and seasons based on similar models in other parts of the world such as the USA and India. QBS will take on the risks associated with investing in foundation seed production, quality management and efficient production to deliver in a timely and cost-effective manner always assuring integrity of products.
QBS will produce high quality seed in South Africa, Zambia and Kenya, working with qualified local growers and the local seed certification authorities to ensure quality and will then store seed in climate-controlled warehousing and process the seed through high quality plant and machinery.
Seed will only receive chemical treatment at the point of sale and customers will only be invoiced once the seed is ready for dispatch, thereby making a significant contribution to the working capital demands of the customer.
QBS will initially start with foundation seed for maize in east and southern Africa and will eventually cover other cereals and legumes.
QBS is an independent company serving multiple customers. It aims to grow into a standalone commercial entity, with shareholding by various seed entities within the next five years.
QBS produces all kinds of seed. Transgenics (GMOs), like any other new seed variety, has its place in the market. QBS supports regulation, so that such varieties can be made available to seed companies and farmers following the applicable regulatory processes in the respective countries.
QBS will therefore supply transgenic foundation seed, where authorized, under stringent stewardship to ensure trait stability and quality is maintained. The bulk of QBS business is for conventionally bred seed whose production is safeguarded through quality procedures to avoid any contamination of the seed.
QBS seed will improve productivity of certified seed. This means that farmers will actually get a better deal with seed produced through foundation seed coming from QBS.
East and southern Africa are only the first areas of attention due to the region’s interest in maize that is also QBS’ first crop of interest. However, as the company grows, it will expand to other regions, and crops especially west Africa.
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) facilitates technology access and transfer with the smallholder farmer in mind, while Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a benevolent supporter of agricultural productivity in Africa. In addition, both are ardent supporters and participants in creating a stronger seed system. QBS was set up and is being ‘incubated’ by AATF through funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. AATF also provides corporate functional support.