Is It Time to Certify Seed Conditioning Equipment Operators?

- Jon Moreland

If you are involved in any aspect of the seed industry, at one point you will find yourself at the heart of things … a seed conditioning facility. The conditioning facility is where the magic really happens (which I suggest can be made less magical and more scientific).

Each year I have the fortune to visit a great number of these conditioning facilities, which run a wide variety of seed species from alfalfa to zucchini and everything in between. Although some are extraordinarily organized, managed and operated, many have room for improvement. Many are consistent in design and components but fail to provide consistent results. What are we missing? Set aside input on engineering or equipment solutions, and focus on something often overlooked: the opportunity to improve efficiency, margins and most of all seed quality through more consistent equipment operator training.

The top-down solution to this issue requires more than a facility-by-facility or manufacturer-by-manufacturer approach. It warrants a certification for professional seed conditioning experts. The industry would benefit greatly.

Certification Benefits

Customers would benefit by receiving the highest quality seed and knowing that a standardized level of conditioning has been provided.

Seed companies would benefit by improved seed quality, increased efficiency of operation, higher potential margins and, heaven forbid, happy customers. Seed companies might also attract talent to the industry by providing a career path and credentials for the operations staff. If you are a seed company committed to improving staff, this could also be marketed to your customers. Let them know you are doing everything possible to provide the best possible product.

For the operations employee, certification credentials would provide a host of benefits including increased skills and knowledge, a commitment to the job and industry, greater self-esteem and recognition among peers. Certification would also provide a career path where professional operators have the ability to improve themselves and their earnings.

Effectively creating a Certified Seed Conditioning Professional credential would take advantage of institutions already in place. I envision a three-cluster approach, combining the industry expertise and know-how of a powerful association, such as ASTA or IPSA; seed-oriented universities such as Iowa State, Purdue and UC, Davis; and private service/equipment providers. This would allow for the creation and offering of a balanced and valuable training curriculum.

The curriculum should include classroom-based and hands-on training. The initial sessions could be held at industry events, such as ASTA’s Corn, Sorghum and Soybean Seed Research Conference in Chicago or at IPSA’s Annual Conference where a large gathering of products and service providers, as well as experts to lead the training, already exist. Eventually the training could culminate in hands-on training at a seed facility or manufacturer’s test facility. Think “open water” certification like the program used to certify SCUBA divers where the final dives are completed somewhere other than the pool at a resort.

We already use certified mechanics to service vehicle fleets, as well as certified diesel technicians to keep tractors and harvest equipment maintained. Maybe it’s time we pull a page from the playbook of other ag-related industries and deploy the idea internally. Who knows, it might even work!