Praveen Noojibail, Managing Director

The agriculture industry continues to evolve and grow, adapting to new technologies, changing market demands, and shifting environmental conditions. And at the heart of this progress is the quality of vegetable seeds. As consumers become more conscious of their health and the impact of their food choices, the demand for nutritious and sustainable food sources is at an all-time high. In response, the vegetable seed industry is responding with innovative new products, designed to meet these needs while also delivering high yields and efficient growth.

In this edition of our magazine, our focus is on one of the leading brands in this space, I&B Seeds, a company that is making waves with its commitment to innovation and quality. I&B is known for its range of high-performance seeds, designed to meet the diverse needs of farmers around the world. With a focus on research and development, the brand has earned a reputation for delivering some of the most advanced and effective seed products on the market. Let’s take a closer look at what sets I&B apart from its competitors, exploring the company's history, mission, and values.

Empowering Farmers through Quality and Affordable Seeds

I&B Seeds is driven by a core vision to develop superior varieties of vegetables and provide the best possible seeds to farmers. The company's commitment to quality is reflected in its robust R&D pipeline, which employs advanced techniques in Marker Assisted Breeding (MAB), doubled haploids, plant pathology, seed testing, seed quality assurance and seed storage. This investment in a DSIR recognised Biotechnology lab and in other areas of research and development allows I&B Seeds to offer top-notch vegetable and hybrid seeds that are high-yielding, disease and pest-resistant, nutritious, and well-adapted to various agroclimatic zones in India.

The company's flagship products, include Marigold seeds, tomato, capsicum, chillies, and watermelons. With its recent Okra hybrids tolerant to mosaic and leaf curl viruses, I&B Seeds has received positive feedback from farmers and industry customers. The company's commitment to quality is evident in its focus on vegetable crops that can be bred in India, and its exclusion of crops such as carrots, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and Radish.

(L-R)Dr. M.G. Purushothama (Biotechnology), Dr. G. Ramamohan (Technology), Dr. Radhamani AnandaLakshmi (R&D), Mr. Bhaksar Rao (Finance & HR), Mr. Naren Bhat (Operations)

At I&B Seeds, quality and accuracy are at the forefront of every operation. The Pathology Resource Unit, established in 2019, uses state-of-the-art technology to carry out seed health testing, including ELISA, DNA-PCR, RT-PCR, and Real-time PCR, following the standardized protocols published by the International Seed Health Initiative (ISHI). These tests detect seed-borne viruses and bacteria from crops such as tomato, sweet pepper, and hot pepper.

The seed processing and treatment unit at I&B is a testament to the company's dedication to producing the finest quality seeds. Raw seeds are put through a rigorous cleaning process, using graders, gravity separators, sensitive air separators, and color sorters, before undergoing manual inspection. The seeds are then treated with bio-friendly polymers to enhance their durability and protect them from soil-borne diseases, fungus, and insects. To ensure the long-term viability of the seeds, the company uses walk-in cold rooms equipped with coolers and dehumidifiers, maintaining a temperature of 12-150 degree Celcius and a relative humidity of around 40%. With these measures in place, seeds with a moisture of about 6-7% can be stored for an extended period of time.

Dynamic Leadership Pivoting the Company Forward

The management at I&B Seeds places great emphasis on the quality of the product delivered to their customers. The company's R&D centres located across India ensure that each product is held to the highest quality standards. In-house screening and testing facilities for DNA markers and seed tests, performed following ISHI protocols, help maximize resources and reduce the time to market, making I&B Seeds competitive in the market.

The company's core leadership team comprises industry veterans, including Praveen Noojibail, the Chairman and Managing Director; Bhaskar Rao, who heads the Finance and HR divisions; Purushothama, a trained molecular Crop Physiologist; Radha Anandalakshmi who carries years of experience in crop research and the seed industry; G. Ramamohan, who oversees the Breeding and Production programs; and Naren Bhat brings in a fresh perspective and aspirations to take I&B Seeds to the next level.

I&B Seeds boasts a comprehensive research and development facility, with over 100 acres of farms, a variety of greenhouses distributed across multiple sites, and a top-tier ‘Cell & Molecular Biology’ laboratory of 8000 SFT in Bangalore. The dedicated team of more than 30 scientists, some with PhD qualifications, use multi-disciplinary tactics to develop high-grade seeds and products. The government-recognized R&D centre at Bangalore is equipped with a genotyping facility, providing support for the Marker-Assisted Breeding program. The molecular biology lab also executes marker analysis for purity assessment, and a specific team is assigned to Double Haploid Production.

The company is dedicated to providing high-quality seeds to meet the growing demand for food in India. “Our molecular biology and tissue culture program is carried out with global standards, covering plant molecular biology, marker-assisted selection, and introgression of desired traits. We also have a specialized unit for plant pathology, where expert pathologists and molecular biologists conduct research to breed disease-resistant vegetable crops. Once the varieties are selected, they are moved into the seed production program, which follows stringent protocols to guarantee superior quality. Every seed lot produced is rigorously tested in the laboratory to ensure compliance with our quality control criteria. With our commitment to delivering the best service, I&B Seeds is providing the highest quality seeds to meet the needs of India,” the team highlights.

Challenges and Future Goals

Despite its success, the seed industry still relies heavily on foreign companies for various resources, such as chemical reagents, kits, antisera for pathogen testing, and DNA sequencing, while India has the capability to develop these resources at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, Indian seed companies face barriers to accessing germplasm from Indian institutions for research purposes. The lack of depositories for characterized plant pathogens for agricultural research purposes is another area where changes in government framework and support could help lower research expenses for small and medium-sized seed companies and eventually result in lower prices for quality seeds. Praveen suggests that the government should encourage mechanized cultivation and integrated pest management approaches to increase farmer yields and protect the IPs developed by seed companies.

The most important target for the company's long-term success is to provide farming communities with high-yielding, disease-tolerant varieties through breeding vegetables and flower cultivars that are widely adaptable to varying environments in a short time using modern scientific methods, speed and precision breeding, and other techniques. Reaching thousands of small and marginal farmers is also an important goal in order to ensure the success of the company in the long-term.

In the future, I&B Seeds plans to expand its presence in the global market and continue its efforts to empower farmers through innovative and high-quality seed solutions. Our company's short-term goal is to reach a turnover of Rs. 200 crores in the next couple of years, while our long-term objectives are to retain and strengthen our market leader status in Marigold and become one of the top 5 companies in Tomato, Chilli, Okra, Onion, Watermelon, and Sweet Corn sales.