Okanagan Specialty Fruits is a small, grower-led company with just seven employees, which often makes us seem like a small fish in a very big pond. However, despite the need for substantial research and development investments in the agricultural biotechnology industry, being small offers some key advantages.
Many consumers may think of “The Big Six” when they think about ag-biotech companies, which is understandable. A quick look at the list of biotech crops approved or awaiting approval in the U.S. shows that well over half of what’s been developed is from these companies.
Another point you might notice is that the list is almost entirely commodity crops like corn and soybean, which dominate the ag-biotech industry. There’s a very good reason for this, as nearly all these foods are among the most widely grown in the U.S. (and the rest of the world, too).
Needless to say, a company with 7 employees can’t compete with companies with over 20,000 for such a big market – so we don’t! The Big Six may have a huge advantage when it comes to economies of scale, but that also means their significant overhead requires the kinds of returns only feed and fiber crops can offer.
As a result, most fruits and veggies have largely been ignored by the ag-biotech industry. We feel there’s so much potential to make popular, everyday produce like apples and cherries better than ever. That’s where companies like OSF come in!
Even though a smaller budget makes the extremely rigorous development and deregulation process even more challenging, our size makes the research, development and commercialization of a product more cost-effective. It also helps ensure that the entire team is focused and specialized!
Another advantage is that our strategy revolves around partnerships with other forward-looking researchers, growers and industry members. There’s no way we can do it all ourselves, so the only way we can achieve success is to have a product that provides tangible value to our fellow growers – not to mention processors, retailers and consumers too.
This has resulted in greater collaboration, helping us successfully develop our nonbrowning Arctic® apples – a product that truly benefits everyone along the supply chain!