INSIDERS Do You Know the Seed Analyst’s Creed?

Do You Know the Seed Analyst’s Creed?


Sarah Foster
Sarah Foster
President and Senior Seed Analyst, 20/20 Seed Labs - Sarah Foster is a registered seed technologist, senior seed analyst and president of 20/20 Seed Labs — a company she started in 1989 that provides testing services for all crop kinds, including extensive quality and seed health analysis, molecular testing and accredited crop inspection. Involved in the seed industry since the late 1970s, Foster studied and qualified as an accredited seed analyst at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, England. Her work experience includes seven years with Sharps Seed International (Advanta) in the United Kingdom, and five years with the United Grain Growers in Edmonton after immigrating to Canada in 1984.

You may not know this, but the seed analyst’s creed is to protect the livelihood of our clients.

Unlike other seed service providers, seed testing professionals nearly always work in a laboratory setting and not in the field, but we’re on the front lines when it comes to issues of seed health and quality and we’re here to serve the grower and protect his or her best interests.

In Canada there are only three tests that are accredited by the CFIA — purity, germination and true loose smut. While these tests are important to assess seed quality, seed testing goes far beyond that. I have learned that customer service is first and central to what seed testing labs do. A seed grower and anyone selling seed by law has to test their seed for a grade.

However, we go beyond those three tests. Every grower or seed user has a unique situation or seed quality issue that affects their business. So getting to know our clients’ business needs and anticipating what they want helps us understand the bigger picture and offer solutions — much like an agronomist, agrologist, or seed care expert does.

Seed testing labs are multifaceted organizations that work closely on many levels with industry. Our experts will design and customize services for crop development and quality parameters with our clients.

Seed testing is integrated with many sectors of the agricultural industry. So when you think of basic tests such as purity and germination, think about how valuable that information is and what it can tell you. For example through a simple germination test we can begin to tell you how well that seed will grow, but it goes beyond that. Did you know that through the germination, we can decipher the field or crop history? We can tell how the environment has impacted the seed and we also know where it was grown.

We can add to the story when we know if diseases are present or if the seed has been subjected to frost or moisture. We have the tools to help you maintain the seed’s viability, longevity and quality.

Once we have that information, we can begin the consultation process that often puts us in touch with other service providers who contribute to the overall success of our clients, too.

As an industry, we’re finally speaking out about how important we are to the overall sector, and as a result, seedsmen and seedswomen are discovering how crucial testing is to their business’s wellbeing and bottom line.