Chile is a beautiful country that I love working in. Photo by Sarah Foster

20/20 Seed Labs has been involved with Chilean seed production for about 18 years. In that time, using both our ISTA and CFIA accreditation, we have crop inspected and have verified hybrid canola, wheat and soybean seed lots coming back for spring planting.

Chile is aptly described as the long, thin country. It’s 2,672 miles in length and 112 miles wide. This sliver of a country has 15 distinct regions, all of them unique in environment and business.

At its northern tip, there is copper mining in one of the world’s driest deserts, and in the south one finds lush forests. Filling the long gap in between are viticulture and agriculture industries.

Chile exports most of its vegetable and fruit products. Asparagus is No. 1. Over the past 20 years, Chile has cultivated a strong relationship with many countries multiplying and exporting high-value crops.

A typical scene in Chile. Photo by Sarah Foster

We’re contracted by Canadian seed companies for testing and expediting contra-grown seed shipments back to Canada for immediate distribution. The Chilean harvest begins mid-January and is complete by mid-April. It is our responsibility to test seed to Canadian standards and ensure that minimum grades are met for import requirements.

I encourage seed analysts to think about a contra-season contract — an opportunity to work in other countries is a wonderful learning experience.

Working on the ground in remote areas, inspecting crops, visiting seed processing plants and spending time in a fast-paced seed laboratory isn’t for everyone, but it has certainly given us and our analysts a broader understanding of how we fit into this huge cog called seed production. I particularly like being busy with my sleeves rolled up, and enjoy being located in the heart of the action. I thrive on suggesting solutions and being useful, as you get to see results instantly.

I am very grateful to the Canadian and Chilean companies who have been supportive and open to our ideas. We have also enjoyed building a stronger relationship with both Chilean and Canadian governments, having spent many hours educating and being educated on our respective countries’ rules and regulations.

Besides Chile, countries like Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia and numerous other areas may have seasonal openings.

A Chilean corn field. Photo by Sarah Foster

You can also return the favour by inviting their staff over and having extra help when you need it. And don’t worry about language barriers — besides non-verbal communication, there are multiple language apps that come in handy.

I believe that as the need for new seed stocks, specialty seeds and unregistered crop types become more widespread, we need to be on top of testing and regulations to allow that to happen safely and freely as products move back and forth. It’s in our best interests to learn as much as we can. If nothing else, getting away for the last part of winter and possibly learning a new language is always fun.

Oh, and most countries work under the ISTA standards, which is a huge benefit as most of us use them. Combining travel and work has never been easier.

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