How To Be a Realistic Plant Breeder
Point #1: Hygiene pays
What you don't know about tissue culture, plant viruses, and bacteria could cost you years of waiting. An infected plant takes at least 2 years longer to get to market than a clean plant. 2 years of additional costs and labor. How can you protect yourself? Learn virus free plant management: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/3065.html
Point #2: What are you competing against?
Are you providing a new Petunia or a new crop? If there are already a hundred plants of the same type as yours on the market, you can expect it to be 100 times harder to make the same profit.
How many people are doing what you do? For commodity crops; big breeding companies may have teams working on the same crop. What are your chances of success with fewer resources?
What's your edge?
How is your crop different from all the others? If you don't know, it takes longer for the company you work with to trial and prove any improvements.
Point #3: Just how "Out There" are you?
What is your personality like?
If you hate this stuff...hire a breeder's agent to work with marketing your plants. Find someone who can make it easy for you to understand the entire process and let you focus on the part you like the plants.
What are you breeding?
Wild is good, new and different is easier to find a market for; but if the industry can't grow it, they won't buy it. Look what is popular: Petunia, Pelargonium, and Coleus. Is what you are breeding this easy to produce? It doesn't have to be, but easier crops move through the systems faster.
Where does your plant do well?
Is it tropical? Does it require a freeze to flower? Will it only grow indoors? How long does it take to flower? There is an outlet for all of these plants, but the more you know the better your search for a market will be.
Point #4: Money and Time
What it costs to bring your plant to market?
Even on the cheapest scenario it takes at least $6,000.00 for a company to release your plant. For most plants working through an average company system, it is closer to $10,000, and in some cases might go as high as $20,000. That is what the company spends; most of this will be invisible to you, the breeder; unless you are cost sharing in some way with the company releasing your plant.
How long it takes to bring your plant to market?
In today's world of high tech horticulture, it is no longer enough to just take cuttings and grow. Most companies have 1-2 years trialing, 1-2 years virus cleaning and stock production, 1 year limited release, then full release and then a year until you may get your 1st royalty check. So plan on about 6 years, depending on who is paying for the costs.
Point #5: It is NOT a get rich quick scheme.
The old feeling was that a plant finder could get rich quick, hey, anything is possible, but the average independent plant breeder with a few successes in likely getting enough money to pay his greenhouse heating bills, maybe subsidizing some travel or vacation. It can be more, but you increase your chances of making more if you pay attention to hygiene in your breeding programs, understanding what is on the market, understanding your own strengths & weaknesses, and having a realistic outlook on the time and money involved in the process.
Our advice is to get out and meet other plant breeders, hear their stories, learn from their experiences and when you make a choice on what company you want to work with, make that choice based on your ability to trust them to do the best they can for you and your hybrids. Be realistic, be informed, and be patient.
A rough time line and budget for introducing a new crop
Every situation is different, but it helps to have an idea of what is involved. It costs money to introduce a plant as a plant breeder you should be aware of the costs and how your partners are working with you to cover those costs.
To bring a new crop to market entails a lot of money spent behind the scenes, usually agreements specify who will pay all the different phases of release. Most agreements cost share, and or prorate pre-market expenses against future royalties.