Seed companies invest billions in R&D annually to bring new genetics, traits and more to your farm. We want to introduce you to a few of the faces behind the innovations. Learn more about their story and the challenges they face. Here's the sixth of an eight-part series.
With 51 full seasons under his belt, Bill Eby still has the same passion for research today that he did when he first started in the 1960s. The farm-raised Iowa native never considered anything outside of agriculture but as a teenager would have laughed if you would have told him he’d be working in science.
“In 1968 Harry Stine offered me the opportunity to start a breeding program, I said ‘science?’” Eby explains. “Really, we just learned as we went. Harry and I are practical farmers and understand probability, so we just evolved and added the science more and more as we went.”
Eby was the first full-time employee Stine hired and doesn’t hold a formal college degree. He took classes during winter quarters at Iowa State University when he first started working at Stine.
“I never got a degree, but I learned what I needed to learn from the school of hard knocks,” Eby says. Today he’s trained dozens upon dozens of other researchers and the company employs more than 600 full-time staffers. He was involved in much of the research hires first-hand.
“The first year we only had four test locations in Iowa,” he adds. “Today we have 83 locations in 50 states. The first year we only had 5,000 plots and today we have nearly one million.”
In the half-century he’s spent at Stine, he’s proud of the incredible growth the company has experienced. And, on a personal level, proud of his contributions to science and farmer productivity.
“It’s rewarding to see the people I’ve trained over the past 50 years continue to grow,” Eby says. He’s also excited to see Enlist E3 soybeans and LLGT27 soybeans hit the market after years of research and dedication to getting those products launch.
However, Eby says something has to change about the way manufacturers bring products to market.
“The cost and the time it takes to receive regulatory approval is our biggest challenge,” he says. “The last couple launches we’ve gotten took nearly a decade—it’s extremely frustrating to have EU and China delaying soybean traits our farmer need to plant.”
Despite the cost and rising challenges, Stine is still dedicated to breeding and trait research today.
“Soybeans are the driver for Stine and corn is the follower,” Eby says. “We developed a corn breeding program because we had a successful soybean program and it’s exciting to see where that can go.”