BaseSpace Clarity LIMS Helps Beck’s Hybrids Reap what they Sow

by on January 5, 2015 in Genomics
Corn Field | Becks Hybrids | Clarity LIMS

Beck's first seedhouse in 1917

Beck’s first seedhouse built in 1938 (image from www.beckshybrids.com)

Beck’s Hybrids is the largest family-owned, retail seed company in the United States, serving farmers in the Midwest and neighboring regions since the early 1900s. With their own roots in farming, Beck’s helps other farmers increase quality and yield of crops and ultimately control some of the unknowns associated with farming. They do this by working with breeders to incorporate desired traits through use of dihaploid technology and genome wide selection. Unlike other seed companies, they have resisted the pressure to sell to large corporations that lack the farmer-to-farmer service they are known for. However, staying relatively small means they must creatively use their resources to compete with these larger corporations. To remain competitive, they bolstered their research operations, hired a lab manager, and called on BaseSpace Clarity LIMS to help. This blog describes how Beck’s is drawing on the intuitive design, preconfigured workflows, and configurability of BaseSpace Clarity LIMS to efficiently run their research lab.

In addition to corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa, Beck’s also helps farmers with cover crops, such as the one shown here (image from www.beckshybrids.com)

Getting a Lay of the Land

As a department of one and with a growing sample volume, newly hired lab manager, Jenni Taller, had to work quickly. She had to organize her lab and get ready for a large growth in sample volume in accordance with company goals. Taller built a system of spreadsheets that she refers to as “beautiful,” but the spreadsheets quickly became non searchable because of nomenclature and worksheet organization. Information was also evolving at a rate that the spreadsheets couldn’t keep up. Taller recalls receiving sample information from breeders in varying formats that she would have to reformat to make consistent with her spreadsheets. After a while, she says, she was spending all of her time in from of the computer. So it was early on when Taller realized that a laboratory information management system (LIMS) would be the best way for her to organize her lab when she had so few resources.

To guide their purchase of a LIMS, Beck’s came up with a list of requirements. Whatever LIMS they chose should help them track samples from end-to-end and keep good records for materials comparison. Since Beck’s runs lean, it also had to be easy to administer, customize, and maintain. One wish of Taller’s was also to go paperless, because she says, “I don’t like to kill trees!” On top of these important requirements, whatever they purchased also had to be affordable. Ultimately, they chose BaseSpace Clarity LIMS.

Planting Seeds for Success

Greenhouses filled with corn at Beck's Hybrids

Greenhouses filled with corn at Beck’s Hybrids (image from www.beckshybrids.com)

At Beck’s, time is counted in growing seasons, primarily corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, and cover crops. Any time out of production could potentially affect a growing season. Therefore, Beck’s had to be up and running quickly. As is part of the standard BaseSpace Clarity LIMS implementation, a dedicated team is assigned to implement the system. One important member of that team is a Field Application Specialist (FAS). Even before BaseSpace Clarity LIMS was implemented, a GenoLogics FAS took time to understand Beck’s workflows and requirements.  When it came time for the implementation, the FAS helped them set up an initial workflow to reflect their work. Training took place immediately, and according to Taller, they were operational in two weeks!

Weeding Out the Challenges

Beck’s journey hasn’t been without challenges, but BaseSpace Clarity LIMS has actually helped them address these challenges. Soon after implementation, the primary assay kit used in the lab was discontinued by the supplier. Beck’s reached out to breeders to share the news, and collectively a decision was made to use the decommissioned sample kit as an opportunity to gain even greater information about samples AND increase the sample volume.  Within a day or two, Beck’s decided to use the Infinium kit from Illumina®. New samples would be coming Beck’s way, so they had to quickly determine how to build the new workflow into BaseSpace Clarity LIMS. Fortunately, BaseSpace Clarity comes standard with over 40 preconfigured workflows, and Infinium was one of them.  With several small changes to the workflow, it was operational in a week.

Cultivating a Strong Future

In the coming year, Beck’s plans to triple its sample load and looks forward to making even greater impact with their farmer customers. They attribute much of their ability to expand without growing pains to BaseSpace Clarity LIMS and the level of support that they receive. BaseSpace Clarity LIMS:

Beck's competitive advantage comes from conducting cutting edge research

Beck’s competitive advantage comes from conducting cutting edge research (image from www.beckshybrids.com)

Most importantly, BaseSpace Clarity LIMS helps their small research lab positively impact their farmer customers with the best in seed quality, field performance, and service.

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