The seed industry drives agricultural innovation, contributes billions to the economy, encompasses diverse crops and businesses, and fuels a strong export market. As a whole, the industry realizes the importance of bringing new generations into the folds — plant breeders, seed growers, seed conditioners, distributors and retailers, and farmers. After all, the future depends on these newcomers. But seed analysts are often left in a category all its own.
It’s vital to our future that we encourage young people to consider a career in the seed industry, and seed testing and analysis plays an important role. We need bright, young seed analysts and technicians. However, there is no one institution that a person can go to for education and training; much of it is on-the-job training.
This only perpetuates the lack of exposure and awareness among young people. Where would one learn about career opportunities as a seed technologist? Unless a family member or neighbour is involved in the business of seed, it’s extremely unlikely that this option would even be on their radar.
It’s a great job for individuals who want regular business hours, a clean environment, and those who enjoy working with laboratory equipment and solving puzzles. The demands are high. Seed technologists must command a working knowledge of seed biology, plant pathology, entomology, Latin and more. In addition, customer service skills are important. It’s easy to deliver good test results to a customer, but what about when you have to tell someone their seed doesn’t meet specs? It’s an important skill. There are about 11 different topic areas that a well-rounded seed analyst must know and understand.
While laboratories take steps to train staff and make sure they have the proper certifications, it’s often a very specific task for which they are trained. I challenge those of us in the seed testing industry to think about:
A) How can we increase awareness about career opportunities as a seed technologist?
B) How can we broaden our scope of training to help develop a larger mass of well-rounded seed analysts?
When you think about it, a $20 germination test is not that much for the expertise a customer gets and/or has access to. Furthermore, as the seed industry continues to advance, making use of new innovations and bringing more new products to market, our jobs have gotten increasingly complex and require new skill sets.
This is a career opportunity. It’s a profession that helps seed companies, seed growers and ultimately farmers. It’s a profession that has allowed me to develop life-long friendships and travel the world. It’s a profession that provides quality assurance and technical advice, helping to feed the world.