Germination presents a series of stories on the 20 most influential people in the seed sector in 2018. Want to nominate someone for 2019? Email email@example.com with the subject line “Top 20 nomination”!
Fun fact: it took a man from Quebec to help bring soybeans to the Prairies.
Alexandre Mailloux helped introduce that big money crop to Western Canada and was one of the people who brought Bt corn technology to la belle province. As research director for Quebec’s La Coop fédérée and co-founder of the Elite Seed brand, the 62-year-old is looked to by many for guidance on how one person can do big things to get an entire industry buzzing.
“I love to create unique products, bring them to market, establish a value proposition, and watch what happens after that,” he says.
Mailloux leads all research projects undertaken at La Coop fédérée, Eastern Canada’s largest agricultural company. It’s a role that’s only grown bigger over time. When he started at the company 29 years ago, he had only one employee on his team. Today, there are 28.
Over the past three decades, he’s watched technology progress and the regulatory environment along with it, but his work ethic has stayed steady.
“When I started out, this business was built on a handshake. Now you have lawyers involved at every step of the process, which in some ways is probably a good thing, but in other ways requires us all to step up our game and ensure we’re playing our A-game every day,” he says.
That’s why he’s become such a huge proponent of Plant Breeders’ Rights. His role in advocating for his industry over the years — he’s a past president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association — allows him to promote the benefits of PBR in Quebec and beyond.
But for Mailloux, the past is the past and new innovations are on their way. Over the next three years his team will be unveiling short-season soybean varieties that promise yields comparable to current ones that dominate the market.
Not only is he known for championing new varieties outside of Quebec, he’s made a name for himself bringing new varieties to all regions of his home province.
“My mandate is to bring seed innovation to all areas of Quebec, not just the southwest. Doing that is challenging, but very gratifying.”
Yet at 62, Mailloux isn’t shy about acknowledging his activity within the seed industry is at its peak.
“I’m still hugely motivated to take on new projects that will take anywhere from three to seven years to execute, but at this point, I can’t see myself taking on something that’s going to be a decade in the making,” he says.
He looks forward to watching the seed sector progress as it goes on to be led by a younger generation.
“It’s a mixed feeling you get when you think about your career coming to its apex. It’s tough to rationalize, but it happens to us all. I’ve had a great career. With what’s coming down the pipe in regard to our new soybean lines and the like, the next few years will be very interesting.”