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”!
At 30 years old, Doug Miller is quickly becoming known as the seed industry’s technology visionary. It’s one of the benefits of being a millennial, you might say — he’s grown up surrounded by the digital world and has learned to use it to enhance both his personal and professional lives.
“I remember my first computer like it was yesterday — going online with a dialup modem, downloading my first songs on Napster,” he says with a laugh, as if the mid-1990s were ages ago. “I’ve been able to take the passion for technology that I explored in my personal time and incorporate it into by work. That’s a dream come true.”
Miller is managing director of Certification and Technology Services for the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA). He manages CSGA’s seed crop certification program and related IM/IT services such as new software development.
He’s no stranger to Germination readers, having graced our cover in 2016 in a story about how he completely revamped CSGA’s paper-based seed certification system to a fully electronic one, necessitated by the introduction of the Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) program for seed crop inspection. Under Miller’s watch, CSGA transformed its entire business process to a paperless, semi-automated, electronic platform.
The wildly successful initiative was recognized with a Laserfiche Run Smarter Award for the most visionary Laserfiche initiative, a honour awarded to organizations that use Laserfiche software – a community of over 30,000 organizations across the globe. Ricoh provided assistance with helping to get this initiative implemented.
He’s now looking ahead to the single-window service model proposed by the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project and how he can help spearhead the technological wizardry it will require. He’s using the single-window model as the subject for his MBA thesis in food and agribusiness, which he’s currently working on at the University of Guelph.
“Imagine going to the bank and needing a different teller for every kind of transaction. In the seed sector, that’s kind of how we currently operate. A single window will bring all those stakeholder contact points into one spot. Right now, this single window is very much a concept but soon we’ll be putting pen to paper and bringing it into reality. That’s really exciting.”
The son of a chef and a career civil servant, he grew up in the Ottawa Valley. He went to Carleton University and earned a biology degree, doing a stint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Seed Section and High Visibility Issues Group prior to coming to CSGA.
“The ASD project presented an opportunity for that to happen on a scale I couldn’t imagine previously. Revamping a 110-year-old paper-based system into a modern electronic one was daunting but exciting.”
Miller isn’t shy about moving forward into unchartered technological territory. He’s a major proponent of blockchain technology, which he believes will one day be of tremendous value in enhancing traceability in the seed sector.
“There’s going to be a lot of value in building blockchains off the certified seed system,” he says. “A lot of people are exploring it. That interest is being fuelled by consumer demand for increased traceability within the value chain. Whole industries are responding to it. Walmart is implementing this across their value chain — they’re able to trace sliced mangoes from the store shelf to the field in just over two seconds, which is unfathomable.”
But for Miller, new technology isn’t the only key to moving the seed sector into the future. Also important, he says, is recruiting innovative, creative people from all walks of life.
“Diversity breeds innovation, and we need to look outside our industry for some of that. Living in an urban setting, I can tell you there are a lot of talented people who haven’t considered a career in ag. If we welcome these people into our industry, we’re going to see tremendous growth and value.”