David Price – replicating a seed cooperative business blueprint

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Open pollinates seeds are under threat from many sides: corporations control the majority of seeds trade globally, governments require licences to sell, and convenience sends us to Tescos and friends to buy food grown by the large players. For us in the permaculture world, organic, etc, where we care about biodiversity, nutrition and health, open pollinated seeds provide security for the future.

Notes

Met at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017.

The Seed Cooperative is a community benefit society

75% of seed in the world is sold through just 5 global corporations.

Beyond their own production, the Seed Cooperative is supplied by growers around the country, who don’t specialise in seed production, but are growers of food (box schemes, CSAs, etc.)

Open pollinated seeds only.

Using such seed allows for breeding your own varieties, with traits that work for you, your region and soil.

The Seed Coop bases its model on a German coop with over 90 growers and a turnover of 5mil.

It’s a type of cooperative of everyone involved in the “system”

Every grower, every client becomes a member by buying out 100 shares at £1 each (outlay of £100 – I can do maths, see? 😉 )

The Seed Coop took over the sales functions of Stormy Hall Seeds, including the website which is http://www.sh-organic-seeds.co.uk/

There were close to 4k customers using Stormy Hall Seeds, and the Seed Coop has started offering membership to those customers.

There’s very few seed companies that are actually producing seed in the UK.

By having growers spread around the country you can avoid certain issues that may be a big headache for a single grower:

  • cross pollination of varieties, which creates a risk of making seed not true to type
  • weather patterns can wipe out a crop in one location, but not in another

OPPORTUNITY: Lincolnshire may be a good place to look for affordable land due to the collapse of the flower farms after the market chose to buy flowers flown from abroad.

From what I understand David financed the purchase of the land and buildings through a mixture of loans, mortgage, and community shares. Now they are raising more money through shares to ensure positive cashflow in the development stages, but are already seeing money coming in from the sales of the seeds.

The benefit for members that put money into shares is the existence of a trusted, resilience source of open pollinated seeds in the UK. The money can be returned, although it is not yet a commitment for the shares to bring a return in the future. This may be decided by coop members.

To learn more about the scheme, and join if you will, visit http://www.seedcooperative.org.uk/support/

There’s a minimum of 100 shares to be a member, but there is also a maximum – 100000 shares, to avoid being overtaken by a majority shareholder.


Music used: Luxe by Jahzzar is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike License.

This is a fledgling project, that is taking a considerable amount of time, and a little bit of money. If you found this informative, entertaining, helpful, and think that it could help someone else, please share using the buttons below. Many thanks!

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