Why is this man smiling? Probably because he spends about half the year in Hawaii working on new corn seed hybrids for growers to plant back here on the mainland.
Ben Hable (pronounced Hobbly) is Syngenta Seeds Corn Product Development Lead. During an agricultural media seminar following the grand opening of the new Syngenta Seeds headquarters in Minnetonka, MN this week, Ben said that producing seed corn in Hawaii allows them to fast track new products to market. “In Hawaii we can actually turn a crop every 3 and a half months so we can increase the seeds that we need to get back here to the mainland for seed production,” Ben told me during an interview. “Syngenta now has over 300 full time staff in the state of Hawaii working on corn and soybean seed production.”
Ben told us that seed corn is now Hawaii’s biggest cash crop, and he was telling the truth. Just today, a story came out of Honolulu about the latest report from the the Hawaii Field Office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) that says the value of Hawaii’s seed industry for the 2008/2009 season was a “record high” of $176.6 million. Seed corn accounts for $169.3 million, or 96 percent, of the total value.
A recent Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation study shows that seed crops have become the largest agricultural commodity in the state, exceeding the value of both sugar and pineapple by 180 percent and 90 percent, respectively. The photo is of seed corn growing on the island of Molokai.
Listen to or download my interview with Ben Hable below.