Rob Robinson, chief executive officer of Rob-See-Co based in Elkhorn, Nebraska, said the seed company is bound and determined to retain one aspect of an ever-changing seed industry forever — strong relationships with farmers and ranchers.
Those relationships began in 1888, when Robinson’s great-grandfather migrated from New York to Nebraska to start the J.C. Robinson Seed Co. That company would evolve to become one of hundreds of seed companies that sprung up across the nation, offering hybrid corn and other products to farmers for the first time. The family’s business history includes the seed brands Funk’s G and Golden Harvest, which was sold to Syngenta in 2004.
“Around 2005, many regional seed companies sold. There was a dramatic reduction from around 300 seed companies to about 85 growing hybrid seed corn at this time,” Robinson said. “Regional companies felt threatened at the time when it came to maintaining access to germplasm and traits, and that is one of the reasons it was challenging for many to stay in business.”
In 2013, a new company — Rob-See-Co — was built from the ground up. Today, it’s the fastest growing seed company in the nation, according to the CEO.
“We had been talking to producers around the country, and they missed the buying experience they once had,” Robinson said. “We were inspired to bring back everything that makes working with a regional seed company great in response to the mergers and acquisitions occurring in the industry that had dramatically changed the business. Creating a customer-responsive business that is nimble in the marketplace continues to be central to our goals.”
Robinson said Rob-See-Co is built on three pillars: technology, relationships and simplicity.
“We strive to produce great products and to have a well-trained sales force so they can represent our products accurately,” he said. “That is why we call our commissioned salespeople ‘business associates,’ because we are striving every day to ensure a professional salesforce.
“We also wanted to make the seed buying experience less complicated. You have to have a lot of faith in your seed supplier and a truly great seed company has seed sellers who are experienced and have built trusting relationships.”
Rob-See-Co offers growers both Rob-See-Co and Innotech corn and soybean seed brands. Robinson pointed out that strong Agrisure traits for below and above ground control of corn rootworm and corn ear worm have been one of the keys to their success. For the 2019 planting season, the company also offered Stine LibertyLink GT27 and Enlist E3 brand soybeans. They believe the Enlist E3 system will take a sizable market share in the future.
“The foundational parts of the business have not changed,” Robinson said. “You always have to have a well-educated sales team. What has changed is the complexity of dealing with larger producers that don’t have as much time to specialize in an individual area of their business. That is why they rely on suppliers they trust to make good recommendations for them, because they don’t have time to do the research themselves.
“The current farm economy is also challenging. We have to continue to find ways to provide more value, whether with digital platforms or unique information, so that customers have a better experience with our products. I find innovation the most exciting.”
Robinson reiterated that relationships have carried the family forward in the seed business and will continue to for generations to come.
He and his wife Cheryl are proud their grown children are all owners and involved with the business. Their son, Jim, is the company’s corn and soybean product manager. Another son, Scott, does not work directly for the seed company; however, he does some programming work for them. Their youngest son, Matt, also worked for the business in the past and stays connected with their efforts. Their daughter, Laurel, lives in Houston and is involved at the board level.
“It’s about strong relationships with some of the best people in the industry,” Robinson said. “We like to keep it fresh and make it fun and thoroughly enjoy the relationships we have. It’s not really work when you are enjoying what you are doing.”
Robinson said they are dedicated to being available to their customers.
“My cell phone number is on the back of the product guide,” he said. “We really want to serve you and be accessible.”
Kerry Hoffschneider can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.