INSIDERS Why the Seed Analyst is an Invaluable Resource

Why the Seed Analyst is an Invaluable Resource


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.

Soon the season of seed testing will begin. It can be hard to know whom to turn to for answers to questions you might have.

To truly succeed, a seed testing company has to be trusted by putting out reliable results customers can depend on, and providing good answers to their questions.

The only way to put out reliable results and be able to answer questions definitively is by having good seed analysts, of course. They’re the ones you turn to for answers to those important questions about seed quality and health.

The seed analyst might be the most overlooked person in the agriculture industry. They perform a hugely important job, yet often spend a lot of time behind a desk, where they perform the quiet and low-key task of analyzing seed. That’s the part of the job that most people see. What they don’t see is what happens in the off-season, and what those analysts have often done to get where they are and be a valuable resource for customers.

As a seed analyst myself, I spend a lot of time with customers and a lot of time in the field. I have combined, seeded and worked in seed cleaning plants. I understand the process from start to finish, and so do many other seed analysts. A truly experienced analyst knows what a seed looks like not just by examining it in the lab, but also by seeing it grow in the field.

It’s invaluable knowledge that helps them do their jobs to the utmost of their ability. An experienced analyst will know a seed from the beginning of its life to the end, what health problems it can face and in what situations — something growers don’t often notice themselves as they go about their busy days.

Experienced seed analysts take time in the off-season to go into the field and see the day-to-day operations in seed processing facilities. It’s the only kind of work that helps them to intimately know the seeds they test when testing season arrives. Good seed analysts know their customers and what they want, and how that translates into what happens in the field. This goes over-and-above the formal certification training they undergo to be a certified analyst.

This coming season, look upon your local analyst as an important resource who can offer you valuable insight into issues around seed health. You simply can’t get that kind of insight anywhere else.