Technology Streamlines Seed Certification

As anyone in the seed industry knows, 2014 was the first year for an alternative to the historic seed crop inspection services provided to seed growers directly by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). In 2014, seed crops producing foundation, registered or certified seed of crop kinds covered by Sections 2 and 3 of the CSGA’s Canadian Regulations and Procedures for Pedigreed Seed Crop Production were to be inspected by authorized, private sector service providers. These crop kinds had been targeted because, in a typical year, they would represent about 88 per cent of all the seed crop inspections and that was about equivalent to one of CFIA’s cost reduction commitments made under the 2012 Federal Budget.

As we near the end of the 2014 production season, we can begin evaluate how the alternative service delivery program performed. Due to the need for CSGA and seed growers to now work with multiple seed crop inspection services, the seed certification system moved to a digital format for improved information flow and data management among the service providers, licensed inspectors, CSGA, seed growers and the CFIA. While the cost of the new electronic system was partially off-set by a contribution from the federal government’s Growing Forward 2 program, it was a challenge to get it operational by the spring of 2014.

Exceeding Expectations

However, as the following numbers indicate, year one of alternative service delivery in seed crop inspection exceeded most people’s expectations.

CFIA was and is responsible for licensing service providers and training and licensing inspectors. In the end, 24 service providers were licensed for operation in 2014, and more than 280 inspectors (some former CFIA seasonal employees) were licensed to perform the seed crop inspections for the service providers. Also the service providers signed contracts with CSGA to ensure compliance with new electronic reporting system and data management requirements.

Seed growers responded above expectations. More than 90 per cent of the applications for seed crop inspections arrived at CSGA electronically from the online application, compared to 27 per cent in 2013. Additionally, 100 per cent of the crop inspection reports were submitted to CSGA electronically, compared to about 10 per cent in 2013 during the pilot phase.

The improved electronic data flow and the high usage rate of the system reduced the time it takes to process the applications as well as the seed crop inspection reports, representing more than 34,000 documents. The processing time for online applications dropped to two days on average from eight days for hard copy applications. The service providers were accepting the applications provided to them electronically by CSGA on average in less than a day. And, the lag time from when a field was inspected to when the inspection report arrived at CSGA was 2.3 days. In previous years, dependent on paper and Canada Post, the average lag time was 15 days.

As we near the end of the 2014 seed certification year, 89.5 per cent of the inspections were performed by licensed seed crop inspection services. That is well above the 75 to 80 per cent expectation we had going into the spring of 2014. A majority of the high-generation seed plots were also inspected by qualified, licensed inspectors. This was well above anyone’s expectations.

Without a doubt, today’s information technology when applied to information management in seed certification, allowed us to tackle the challenge of moving to a digital system in a short time frame with more people involved in the process. One of the primary software systems being used, Laserfiche, is so impressed with the accomplishments that they are awarding CSGA one of their Run Smarter Awards for the most visionary work flow initiative. The Award presentation takes place in California in January 2015.

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