INSIDERS This One Technique Helps Keep Brazil at the Forefront of Technology

This One Technique Helps Keep Brazil at the Forefront of Technology


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.

I recently attended the advanced technology committee of the International Seed Testing Association at the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ) which is a unit of the university of São Paulo in Brazil. The ESALQ is one of the world’s top universities. Their ag students and graduate scientists joined us for the week. The seed research, teaching and extension services in agriculture there are very advanced.

Brazil produces 30 per cent of the worlds soybean crop so it makes sense that some of the world’s leading seed scientists and seed physiology experts in the research community would meet here, where they have adopted amazing new technologies and are using their resources to improve and standardize seed quality.

The Brazilian agricultural sector has been transformed from a traditional system of production with low use of modern technologies to a world agricultural leader. Brazil’s science and technology investments and other public policies have been crucial for enabling the country to discover its agricultural potential and increase farm production.

Taking part in the proceedings clued me in to a key strategy Brazilian aggies have employed to helping get their country on the agricultural fast-track and become a leader in many respects.

Simply put, they use every technological tool available. Brazilian ag experts review all of the new technologies that, even if still in the research phase, offer some interesting options for an in-depth measurement of seed quality in the future —like thermography.

Thermography measures heat. Healthy living seed gives off heat. This application was also promoted to have great merit for detecting systemic seed diseases.

At the other end of the spectrum, they employ nuclear magnetic resonance. Using this technology is like opening a window and looking at the entire inner workings of a seed — something that many of us have only ever seen in a textbook. This is a remarkable use of technology that’s been also widely adopted in the high-value crops such as vegetables in the Netherlands.

What really struck me was Brazil’s use of artificial intelligence (AI). Brazil is utilizing it in breeding, production, quality monitoring and more, and it is picking up steam. Watch this space for my insights on AI and where I see it being applied in future.