Seeds are the beginning and the end of the story. We plant seeds to get more seeds: Seeds are the prize. Everything we eat either came from a seed (fruits and vegetables), is itself a seed (grains), or one degree removed from a seed (meat, poultry, milk). From seeds come materials that clothe us, heal us and literally add herbs and spice to our lives.
Yet flowering plants are a relatively recent development in Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, appearing in the fossil record somewhere between 125 and 140 million years ago. On that long ago day when the first flower turned toward the sun and bloomed in what is now China, the landscape was dominated by coniferous forests and giant ferns. In short order the world was covered in flowers as well.
Seeds are living embryos linking one generation to the next. Some plants are single gender, others have both male (pollen) and female (pistil) parts. Some self-pollinate, though most developed elaborate schemes to cross-pollinate involving insects, birds and animals.
Seeds are delicate, tough, beautiful and remarkably resilient. Some float in the breeze to stake out new territory, while others hitch rides buried in an animal’s fur or a bird’s feather. Some require a literal baptism by fire before they will germinate. Others must freeze first, or soak for a while in water, or travel through the guts of an animal only to be unceremoniously deposited buried in a nutrient-rich pile of poo.
Under the right conditions, seeds can last years, sometimes centuries and occasionally millennia. When a handful of 2,000 year-old Judean date palm seeds were discovered at some archeological sites in Israel a few years ago, scientists tried planting a few. This once ubiquitous palm with its biblically-celebrated fruit had disappeared from the region, a casualty of centuries of war, conquest and climate change. To everyone’s surprise and delight a few seeds sprouted. The male plants produced pollen which was used to pollinate a closely-related species, which then produced dates. The female plants haven’t fully matured yet. When they do, it is possible that a prized fruit in all its ancient glory will once again be on the menu and one of the tastier footnotes in natural and human history restored.
Still, compared to a small cache of 32,000 year-old seeds that were likely buried by squirrels an astonishing 124 feet deep into Siberian permafrost, the date seeds are youngsters. It took a high-tech assist, but the seeds germinated, flourished, flowered and produced the next generation of seeds. After a 32,000 year winter, spring finally came.
It hard to compete with the sheer seed-saving prowess of ice age squirrels, but it was humans who made the leap from gathering to farming. Agriculture developed in several places around the world independently between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago and in each place it provided the foundation for the rise of a civilization: Farming provided a more predictable, reliable food supply.
Seeds from the most productive plants were saved to grow the following year. Over time wild plants became domesticated: selected for specific traits and transformed into agricultural crops. This is how native grasses became corn, wheat, rice and barley.
The transformation was just as profound going the other way, from plant to human. Agriculture changed people physically (a predictable food supply), socially (hunter-gathering nomads began settling down) and culturally (art, songs, dances, ceremonies and traditions to ensure a good harvest). “Corn is really this beautiful co-creation between plants and humans,” notes Rowan White, a member of the Mohawk Tribe and Creative Director of Sierra Seeds. “The incredible evolutionary leap we took with corn is a miracle.”
It took roughly 4,700 years for corn farming to expand from the Oaxaca valley in southern Mexico to the US border. It continued to spread all the way up the west coast until 1,000 years ago when suddenly corn was everywhere on the continent.
When Columbus “discovered” the New World, he found corn, too. Soon corn was in Europe and from there it spread across the world. Corn—each kernel a seed, efficiently packaged in cobs, protectively wrapped in husks—was a game-changer.
In the Middle East, Africa, China, Korea and elsewhere in Asia, the story was the same: People domesticated plants and were, in turn, domesticated. Our wild past gave way to a civilized, uniquely human future.
Once the basics of agriculture had been mastered, the race was on to make a tastier dinner. It can be a fine line between gathering and collecting, but while the former focuses on immediate needs, the latter can inspire cuisines and lead to long term prosperity.
No one knows whether it was Jesuits or conquistadors who brought the tomato—another native of Mexico—to Italy in the 16th century, but didn’t that turn out well?
Meanwhile, Francisco Pizarro—the Spanish conquistador best known for discovering, then promptly plundering, the Inca Empire nestled in the Andes mountains of what is now Peru—took several varieties of potatoes back to Europe, along with all the gold and silver his men could carry. In 2019 the global potato market topped $140 billion and is expected to beat that in 2020. Pound for pound, Pizarro’s potatoes were by far the better investment.
However, the only variety to survive the long journey overseas was “the lumper,” which became an instant hit due to its ease of propagation and all around yumminess: boiled, fried, mashed, baked, sliced and stuffed!
Unfortunately, almost every lumper in Europe was a clone, grown not from seed, but rather by cutting up a spud and planting it “eye” up (each eye is a bud for a branch). The Incans always made sure to grow some of their potatoes from seed, which assured a level of genetic diversity (even if they didn’t know exactly what that was). But the potatoes shipped to Europe came without instructions, so when a disease called “late blight” came to Ireland in the 1840s, identical genetics meant every potato was vulnerable. The disease (which is caused not by a fungus as is popularly thought, but rather by an oomycete) destroyed Ireland’s entire crop for four years running. An estimated one million people died in the famine. Those that could emigrated.
“The seed remembers” observed Charles “White Eagle” Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer in Oklahoma famous for his “Glass Gem” corn. The iridescent kernels were the result of a serendipitous cross Barnes made while trying to breed back heritage corn varieties for traits reminiscent of the kinds of corn historically used by Native Americans. It was a lovely way to say that while not every gene of a species is expressed in every individual plant, it may still be there, waiting for the right moment. And just might be a gene that can help protect the plant from new disease.
Long before anyone even knew to worry about invasive plants or pathogens, seeds were the traveler’s souvenir of choice. According to Thomas Jefferson, collecting seeds was positively patriotic: “The greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” And he wasn’t above breaking the law in pursuit of this noble goal, infamously smuggling rice out of Italy, a crime that risked the death penalty.
It would be another 60+ years before the young Republic would have a proper Department of Agriculture—but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a need. By the 1820s farmland all along the East Coast was losing fertility: the soil quality had degraded, bugs were literally eating the nation’s lunch, and diseases ran rampant. Such was the urgency for new seeds that in 1825 President John Quincy Adams ordered US Consuls around the world “to forward rare plants and seeds to the State Department”—with the US Navy coordinating shipment.
The newly formed Patent Office, then under the jurisdiction of the State Department, handled seed distribution to farmers. Beginning in the 1830s, the government underwrote a series of expeditions for botanists to travel the world and bring back seeds (that’s how soy came to the US in the early 1900s). To test the viability of the seeds, the Patent Office built greenhouses and demonstration gardens—including a garden right across the street from a still under construction Capital Building.
It took a Civil War to cleave off an independent, cabinet level Agriculture Department. Most of the opposition, fearing federal meddling, came from states that had seceded. So President Lincoln seized the moment and in1862 introduced legislation to create USDA, along with the first Homestead Act, which opened up millions of acres to new farmers. Suddenly, there new, massive need for seed and also basic farming know-how. To help with the latter, the Land-Grant College Act was introduced. Each state was given 30,000 acres per Congressional district that could be sold to finance the establishment of schools to teach the “agricultural and mechanical arts” (“A & M” schools).
The USDA continued to breed and distribute seeds to farmers, expanding its efforts to make sure there would be enough varieties under cultivation (“cultivars”) to handle the many climates, soil types, pests and pathogens a growing nation. By the early 20th century, USDA found itself in competition with an emerging commercial seed industry. By the 1920s it was out the seed business altogether.
Patents and Diversity
The privatization of seeds—selling high-performance hybrids that have to be purchased from seed companies every year—had a profound impact on American agriculture and eventually farming all over the world. Traditionally farmers had saved seed from each harvest to use for planting the following spring. The taxpayer-funded work of the USDA to develop new cultivars was considered public good—a critical part of the nation’s infrastructure, like roads. Now all the seed “roads” were toll roads.
Hybrid seeds are too unpredictable to save. They don’t always breed “true,” meaning the genes that made the original plants so productive aren’t reliably passed on to progeny. Hybrid seeds can produce greater yields and potentially greater profits, but are also an added expense. Ironically, when a harvest is good, abundant supply can lower prices. So a farmer can produce more, but if the input costs are high and the commodity prices are low, the farmer can still lose money.
In the aftermath of WWII in the 1940s, stockpiles of chemicals that had been used for making bombs were adapted to make vast amounts of fertilizer—which further boosted yields, but also added another cost. Increasingly large fields of monoculture crops—soy, wheat, corn, barley—were vulnerable to pest and pathogens. This fueled demand for a range of chemical “cides”—pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides—each adding more cost.
An increasingly complex stew of deadly chemicals, combined with decades of tillage, eroded soil structure and annihilated soil microbiota. It also liberated massive amounts of carbon, a greenhouse gas, from the soil, sending it into the atmosphere; and reduced the ability of the land to absorb water. A vicious circle set in: As soil became less fertile—and pests and pathogens developed “cide” resistance—more powerful chemicals were needed. Seed companies merged with chemical companies to provide everything a modern, industrial-scale, commodity farm now required.
In the mid-1980s the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that genetically modified seeds could be patented, making it illegal for farmers to save any of the proprietary seed. Twenty years later, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas (a former lawyer for Monsanto, one of the big seed and chemical companies, now owned by Bayer), the Court ruled that the Patent Office could patent seeds because Congress hadn’t passed a law specifically forbidding it. Since then, thousands of hybrid and genetically modified plant varieties have been patented, including some specifically developed to work in tandem with proprietary pesticides.
Crop seed diversity has taken hit over the last century, though just how big a hit has been the subject of debate. Some say that more than 90% of the varieties for certain fruits and vegetable have been lost. Others point to the success of seed savers who have managed to preserve and propagate hundreds of older cultivars. Yet with tens of millions of acres now planted fence row to fence row with patented, commodity crops, there is no question that there has been a tremendous a loss of seed diversity representation. The old varieties are vastly outnumbered.
“Genetic diversity is the hedge between us and global famine,” notes Will Bonsall, a veteran seed saver from Maine and the founder of the Scatterseed Project. The Crop Trust raises the stakes even further. The influential NGO that shares responsibility for maintaining the famous “Doomsday” seed vault in Svalbard, Norway, lists six key areas where seed diversity plays a critical role: ensuring food security, adapting to climate change, reducing environmental degradation, protecting nutritional security, reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable agriculture.
Seed diversity isn’t only an issue with agriculture crops. Native ecosystems that evolved over millennia have been cleared for farm fields and cities in a matter of decades. This is a global phenomenon, affecting forests, grasslands and wetlands alike. Before the Homestead Acts, for example, Tallgrass Prairie covered 170 million acres of across the Great Plains and Midwest. Today only 4% remains, most of it in Kansas.
The rapid expansion of agriculture in the US came at a steep environmental cost, but there was a devastating human cost as well. The Homestead Acts that opened up millions of acres to American farmers was land that been occupied for generations by indigenous tribes. As the farmers moved in, Native Americans were forced off their land. Crops were burned. Precious seeds were lost.
Food is a primal expression of culture. Over the last several decades, the hunt for those lost seeds has become a quest to restore heritage and heal tribal communities: to help make a damaged culture whole again. As the physical, literal nexus between past and future, seeds hold within their genes the story of what once was and the instructions for what’s next. The Indigenous Seed Keepers Network, an initiative of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA), works with regional and tribal seed saving groups to “rematriate” and share ancestral seeds.
Seed saving has become a cause célèbre, a grassroots (grass seed?) movement to counter-balance the proprietary seed sold by Big Seed companies. It is driven by passionate amateurs for whom sharing seeds is an integral part of of saving them. Seed banks are extremely important, but most seeds need to be planted every few years to keep a viable supply. “Ultimately life does not go on in an ark,” notes veteran seed-saver Will Bonsall. It takes a village—a global village filled with gardeners and farmers—to keep this precious, shared legacy of seeds alive.
For nearly forty years, Seed Savers Exchange based in Decorah, Iowa, has been pioneer in the movement. The Exchange began with a couple of jars of seeds. Today, its collection has grown to 20,000 seed varieties and its catalog—crammed with photos of heirloom vegetables, old-timey flowers and seed origin stories—has become an annual must-read for home gardeners and organic farmers.
The seeds may be vintage, but the world in which they—and we—now find ourselves is in the midst of epic change, specifically climate change. There are some upsides: Plant species that once thrived only in warm, southern climates can now be planted further north. The issues get trickier when environmental restoration is the goal.
Near Chicago, a head-spinning, time-trippy experiment for restoring-native-landscapes-for-the-future is just getting underway. A farm field that was once a prairie is being returned to its natural state, but the region’s climate expected to be hotter, drier and more like that of present day Oklahoma in only a few decades. Will native plants be able to survive? To find out 60 acres will be planted with locals, while another 120 acres will be planted with the seeds of similar plants that have been sourced from as far away as Kentucky. Time will tell who thrives.
There may be another variable in play. Plants, like all life forms, are infused with microbiota that provide all sorts of beneficial synergies: delivering nutrients and water, protecting against pests, fighting off pathogens pathogens. Will seeds from elsewhere form the same kinds of microbial synergies as the natives? Will they bring some new, perhaps better microbiota to the party?
Only over the last decade have scientists begun to tease apart and begin to understand what microbiomes do and how critical they are not only for our health but all health—and the health of the planet writ large. That insight inspired a team at Indigo Ag, a Boston-base biotech, to look at the microbiomes of corn and soy plants that managed to grow in fields where all the other plants around them had wilted from flood, drought or disease. Since commodity crops are hybrid and/or GMO, they are almost identical genetically, so the something else was providing the differentiating advantage. Samples were taken from plants, soils and sensors measuring everything that could be measured. Vast amounts of data were analyzed and microbes isolated and evaluated in the lab. Eventually specific microbes were identified that gave plants superpowers. Seeds were coated with these microbes for field tests and sure enough, yields improved. Microbial-coated seeds are now commercially available.
Coating seeds is not a new idea, but traditionally it has meant bathing seeds in chemicals such as neonicinoids (which have been linked to bee deaths) as way to keep predatory insects in check from the get go.
So which came first: the plant or the seed? The fossil record isn’t giving up its secrets just yet. But it was a very special day when the first seed from the first flower germinated and grew into the second flower, starting a chain of life that continues to this day.
Plant Evolution | MOOC Botanique, 2015 (video) Although the first seeds appeared on Earth about 360 million years ago (in pine cones), it would take another 220 million years for first flowering plants to bloom.
The First Flower | Nova| PBS, 2007 (video) Scientists using fossils, electron microscopes and molecular analyses try to figure out when and where the first flowering plants began their global conquest.
One of World's Longest-Running Experiments Is Buried in a Secret Location in Michigan | Science Alert, 2016 (article) 20 bottles of seeds buried on the grounds of MSU campus in 1879 have been systematically dug up periodically to test the viability
of the seeds.
After 2,000 Years, These Seeds Have Finally Sprouted | The Atlantic, 2020 (article) Mazel tov! Several ancient seeds of date palms gathered from archeological sites in Israel sprouted. Male plants have produced pollen, but scientists are still waiting to see whether the female plants produce tasty fruit.
32,000-Year-Old Plant Brought Back to Life—Oldest Yet | National Geographic, 2012 (article) It took a little high-tech assist, but tissue from immature flower seeds buried by squirrels the permafrost of the Siberian step germinated and bloomed.
Seed Banks | Research Organizations
The Crop Trust (website) works on global crop biodiversity projects; operates the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in partnership with the government of Norway and Nordgen. Also administers the Crop Diversity Endowment Fund to maintain crop genetic diversity in gene banks, including Svalbard. The goal USD 850 million for the endowment (payments are made from investment income). Sponsors annual Seed Summit. Based in Germany.
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, Royal Botanic Garden, Kew (website): The largest, global collaboration to safeguard wild plant diversity, with a focus on plants either threatened with extinction or may become useful in the future.
CGIAR: Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (website) “a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future”. 15 independent, non-profit research organizations. - the largest global agricultural innovation network. Based in France.
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization - UN (website) Focus on hunger, global food security, and nutrition.
Russia's Vavilov institute, guardian of world's lost plants | phys.org, 2017 (article) Overview of the one the world’s largest, oldest and most important seed banks, which was saved from the Nazi’s during the Siege of Leningrad during WWII by a remarkably dedicated staff, several of whom died of starvation in the process.
National Germplasm Resources Laboratory USDA / ARS (website)
Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) USDA (website) acquires, characterizes, conserves, documents, and distributes to scientists germplasm of all life forms important for food and agricultural production.
Center for Plant Conservation, San Diego Zoo Global (website) A network of more than 60 conservation partners, that collaboratively work to save the imperiled plants of the United States and Canada.
The CPC Rare Plant Academy (website) A terrific resource with videos, best practices and a networking platform.
Seed Matters (website) Created by Clif Bar Family Foundation to improve the viability and availability of organic seed to ensure healthy, nutritious and productive crops. Offers graduate fellowships classical plant breeding.
National Association of Plant Breeders (website) US-based organization that brings together plant breeders working in federal, state, commercial and non-governmental organizations. NAPB hosts an annual conference and produces podcasts and webinars.
150 Years of Research at the United States Department of Agriculture: Plant Introduction and Breeding | USDA-ARS, 2013 (pdf) A fascinating, must-read about the origins (in the Patent Office), evolving mission and the first several decades of the USDA. Its founding as a full-fledged Department was in large part due to the Civil War. Most of the opposition came from states that seceded and President Lincoln seized the opportunity.
Jefferson's Pursuit of Rice Seeds | Monticello (article) Yes, Jefferson was a smuggler, too...
State of the World's Plants and Fungi (website) Annual reports produced by the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.
Access to Seeds Index (website) An annual publication that analyzes and compares the efforts of the world’s leading seed companies to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers. Produced in conjunction with the World Benchmarking Alliance, an independent research organization based in The Netherlands focused on measuring and quantifying progress on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Seed Saving Resources
Seed Savers Exchange (website) Since the 1970s, Seed Savers, based in Decorah, Iowa, has worked to preserve America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage through the collection, growth and sharing of heirloom seeds and plants. Request a catalog (free in the US)
The Maine Farmer Saving the World’s Rarest Heirloom Seeds | DownEast, 2020 (article) Interview with Will Bonsall, seed-saver extraordinaire and founder of The Scatterseed Project.
Seed: The Untold Story (documentary website)
Open Source Seed Initiative: OSSI (website) OSSI works with plant breeders who commit to making one or more of their varieties available exclusively under the “copyleft” Pledge: “You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this Pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.”
Navdanya (website) From its origins as a seed-saving exchange in 1987, Navdanya now serves more than six million farm families in India through a network of 111 Community Seed Banks. Founded by food activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya also offers training in organic growing practices. In 2011, Navdanya International (website) was founded to take the “Seed Freedom” movement global.
Gardening is Important, But Seed Saving is Crucial | Civil Eats (article) Overview with many useful links.
The Seed Saver: A Korean American Farmer Connects With Her Roots
Seed Broadcast (blog): Seed Broadcast is a fascinating, slightly confounding series of websites all about seeds, with a focus on the American Southwest. It is part art collaborative, part media, part resource. Much of the content is dated but still interesting.
Seed Saving Basics
How to Save and Use Seeds From Your Own Fruits and Vegetables | Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply
Saving Garden Flower Seeds | Garden Answer
Saving Vegetable Seeds, University of Minnesota Extension (website) A good general overview.
Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth (book): Covers the basics of seed-saving for 160 different vegetables.
Opinion: Homegrown seed is the kernel of a food revolution | The Journal, 2020 (article) An 0p-Ed from an Irish newspaper highlights a key issue in the global food system: Where do the seeds come from? In Ireland, which is ranked second in the world for food security, “95% of vegetable seed (is) imported and either grown or transported through Europe.” Many countries don’t require country-of-origin labeling for seeds, making it that much harder to know exactly where seeds come from.
Native American Seeds
NAFSA— Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (website) Programs focused on the role of traditional food and agriculture in Native American culture, including the “rematriation” of seeds. NAFSA is the parent organization of the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network (website).
Centuries After Their Loss and Theft, Native American Seeds Are Reuniting With Their Tribes | Gastro Obscura, 2020 (article) Seeds for plants important to Native American tribes, but thought to have been lost to history, have been discovered in seed banks and museum collections. For the first time time in generations they are being propagated and “rematriated” with their tribes.
Native Seeds Search (website) Based in Tucson, NSS focuses on arid-adapted seeds of the American Southwest with an emphasis on seed-saving and sharing among Native American tribes. Website has a pretty good gift shop and also a “Sonoran Pantry” with items available to the general public.
Traditional Native American Farmers Association: TNAFA (website) Since 1992, TNAFA has marched to its own agronomic drum, rejecting large-scale, commodity agriculture in favor of “family oriented scale farming designed to build / rebuild local communities and restore health. Cheap, processed “fast food” had replaced traditional foods with devastating consequences. Native seeds and healthy soils are viewed as foundational to thriving communities.
This rare, vibrant heirloom corn is the work of a Dust Bowl farmer with Cherokee roots | Boing Boing, 2020 (article)"Glass Gem" corn, which glows in a rainbow of colors, was developed through traditional seed-saving and breeding techniques. Its genetic dazzle emerged when older varieties of corn were bred back to match ancestral lineages used by Native Americans. "The seed remembers," noted Oklahoma farmer Charles "White Eagle" Barnes.
The Origins of "Carl's Glass" Gems Rainbow Corn | Mother Earth News
Native Landscape Seeds
Seeds of Success — SOS - US Bureau of Land Management (website) Collects wildland native seed for research, development, germplasm conservation, and ecosystem restoration.
The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank (website): A collection of 4,000 accessions representing 1,700 species, including some of the rarest species in the Upper Midwest. Part of the Center for Planet Conservation network.
Seeds of change: Lake County forest preserve begins experimental restoration, Chicago Tribune, 2020 (article) Habitat restoration must now take rapid climate change into account, which means finding plants best suited for future conditions.
Mergers of “Big 6” Seed and Ag Chem Companies – Who Owns What Now | AgFax, 2019 (article) In 2015 six companies dominated the global seed and agricultural chemical market: BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta. Since then Dow and DuPont have merged; Bayer bought Monsanto (with BASF buying some of the former’s massive seed portfolio to satisfy regulators); and Syngenta merged with Chinese chemical giant Sinochem. (AFN, 2020, article)
Arizona is in the corn business with opening of Bayer's high-tech greenhouse near Tucson |
AZ Central, 2020 (article) To speed the breeding process for corn, Bayer is moving indoors, building a massive, automated, $100,000 greenhouse.
Maximizing seed value | Bayer (website) Company overview of its Seedgrowth® and Peridiam® seed coatings.
Toxic Acres Study | Friends of the Earth, 2019 (webpage) Overview of a peer-reviewed study published in the journal PLOS ONE that found that since the 1990s US farmland has become 48x more toxic to insect life due to the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Seed coatings “account for approximately 80-90 percent of total neonicotinoid use in the US.”
Pesticide seed coatings are widespread but underreported | Science Daily, 2020 (article) Overview of a data analytics study by researchers at Penn State that shows a significant number of growers were unaware that the seeds they used were coated with chemical insecticides and fungicides. They also found that data on seed treatments were uneven, leading to significant underreporting of usage.
Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future by Rob Dunn (book) Written by an evolutionary ecologist, this book takes a deep historical dive into how we have squandered the biodiverse bounty that was our planetary legacy; and how we can slow and possibly reverse the damage.
Indigo Ag (website) This Boston-based Agtech company has raised over $1 billion from investors since its founding in 2016. The company's first product was a line of seeds coated with beneficial microbes designed to increase yield.It has since expanded into several businesses, including a marketplace designed to “de-commodify agriculture.”
Here’s how ‘five startups in one’ Indigo Ag plans to use its $360m Series F add-on | AFN, 2020 (article)
Geoffrey von Maltzahn of Indigo Ag Talks Plant Microbiomes and Decommoditizing Agriculture
An Introduction to the Big Business of Cannabis Seeds | Green Entrepreneur (article) The legalization of marijuana has led to race to patent seeds.
Row 7 Seeds (website) Created by chef Dan Barber, plant breeder Michael Mazourek, and seedsman Matthew Goldfarb, Row 7 positions itself at that "anti-Big-Seed": a small company focused on delivering seeds for the tastiest fruits and vegetables possible, all organically grown and non-GMO.
Chef Dan Barber on Row 7 Seeds and Changing Food Culture