Learning the Business of Seed

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A group of recent graduates of the Seed Business 101 course in Indianapolis. Photo provided by Rale Gjuric

Learning the Business of Seed

UC Davis course immerses participants in the world of agriculture business.

The world of academia is sometimes thought of as vague and abstract, not applying directly to the real world in which the seed industry does business. Seed Business 101, a course offered by UC Davis’ Seed Biotechnology Center, takes a unique approach to mentoring promising new employees and young managers.

“Seminars or books cannot do the same good as Seed Business 101,” says course graduate Ben Peterson, president of Iowa’s Peterson Genetics. “Real life situations are addressed and very serious issues are a couple things the class tackles.”

The course also offers invaluable insights and perspective to seed dealers and companies offering products and services to the seed industry, including seed treatments, crop protection, seed enhancement and technology, machinery and equipment.

It’s not just a course for young people just starting out in the industry, says Rale Gjuric, an organizer of the Seed Business 101 course. “We get a lot of senior people, from financial managers to legal experts, all coming from different industries,” he says. “We get people who have maybe been working for a company for 10 years and are now moving up, and have to understand how a seed company works throughout all its functional areas.”

The course gets students involved in a true-to-life scenario, putting them in charge of a fictional seed company, complete with financial details, inventories, and even a complete history of the company. “The students are basically immersed in the business of this company, and work on case studies dealing with different functional areas of the company. They have to work as a team and come up with solutions to problems the company faces,” says Gjuric.

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Rale Gjuric is an organizer of the Seed Business 101 course offered by UC Davis.

The goal of Seed Business 101 is to enhance each participant’s career performance and help them avoid costly mistakes. The course is designed to focus on the optimum operations of the five major functional areas of a seed company—plant breeding research, production, operations, sales and marketing, and administration.

The course offers participants a broad understanding of the major aspects of a seed company’s operations and a cross-departmental knowledge of best practices for profitability, taught by instructors who have been there and know the inner workings of the seed business. “They are experienced—many are retired or former members of the seed industry. Each one has around 35-40 years of experience,” says Gjuric.

It’s the strong background of its instructors that has earned the Seed Business 101 course rave reviews from those who have taken it. “It’s a great cross-training tool for a more comprehensive understanding of the business and of other team member responsibilities as well,” says Andrew Zalar, a territory sales manager with Growmark FS in Delaware.

Registration for the Seed Business 101 course for 2014 (focusing on seed crops) can be done online at sbc.ucdavis.edu. It’s offered in major seed hubs, bringing the instructors to the students, thereby minimizing travel expenses as well as time away from work. Seed Business 101 takes place in Coralville, Iowa June 2-6 and Chicago, Ill. Dec. 5-9. Seed Business 101 also includes a course concerning horticultural crops, to be held Dec. 5-12 in Davis, Calif.

Plant Breeding Academy
The UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center also is also once again offering its Plant Breeding Academy Program, a professional development course to teach the principles of plant breeding to seed industry personnel. This two-year course addresses the reduced numbers of plant breeders being trained in academic programs. Participants meet for six sessions over two years. Readings and exercises continue between sessions via the Internet to allow participants to maintain their current positions while being involved in the course. Visit pba.ucdavis.edu/overviewcurriculum for more info.

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