46 / SEEDWORLD.COM JUNE 2018 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. This is where the magic really happens (which should be made less magical and more scientific). Each year I visit a great number of conditioning facilities. Although some are extraordinarily organized, managed and operated, many have room for improve- ment. Many are consistent in design and components but fail to provide consist- ent 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 equip- ment 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. Industry would benefit greatly. By receiving the highest quality seed and knowing that a standardized level of condi- tioning was met, customers would benefit. Seed companies would benefit by improved seed quality, increased opera- tional efficiency, higher potential margins and happy customers. They might also attract talent to the industry by providing a career path for the operations staff. For the operations employee, certi- fication would provide increased skills and knowledge, a commitment to the job, 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 Is It Time to Certify Seed Conditioning Equipment Operators? JON MORELAND PETKUS NORTH AMERICA MANAGING DIRECTOR firstname.lastname@example.org • petkus.de would take advantage of institutions already in place. I envision a three-cluster approach, combining the expertise of a powerful association (ASTA or IPSA); seed-oriented universities (Iowa State, Purdue and UC, Davis); and private ser- vice/equipment providers. This would allow for the creation and offering of a balanced and valuable training curriculum. The curriculum should include class- room-based and hands-on training. The initial sessions could be held at events that already exist. Eventually the training could culminate in hands-on training at a seed facility or manufacturer’s test facility. 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. I WAS TALKING to one of our seed growers recently and he said, “My grandpa wouldn’t even recognize a tractor cab today!” I agreed, but also thought, even my childhood self wouldn’t recognize it. It’s during planting season that I’m always reminded of how much agriculture and the seed business have evolved. Field mapping, nearly autonomous tractors, high-speed planters and equipment monitoring have made the farm fields one of the most high-tech places. In a context I love to use, my grandpa farmed with horses and now we farm with informa- tion from space. It’s truly remarkable. So, what’s next? The point of this article isn’t to predict what the future will bring, but to drive home that the future will be different, and to suc- ceed, your business will need to be different too. The next few years will see change at an unprecedented pace. The major mergers are all underway, and a wave of new strategic alignments and relationships is likely to develop. The entire deck may be reshuffled. Ideas you once thought were impossible or ridicu- lous may now be the perfect strategy. Brainstorming “what if” scenarios, chal- lenging the status quo and being able to move quick will likely define those who will win the future. We don’t, however, always get to pick when change comes and what it looks like. New breeding techniques, like gene editing, allow companies to invent new and improved hybrids and varieties. How might they approach the market, and what could that mean for your busi- ness? How can you leverage your farmer relationships and local knowledge to take advantage of this? Is Your Business Yesterday’s Tractor Cab? JIM SCHWEIGERT GRO ALLIANCE PRESIDENT @jim_schweigert • email@example.com • GroAlliance.com Additionally, technology is changing the way seed is sold. Web-based startup companies are popping up and are intro- ducing themselves to farmers on social media, rather than with a handshake. How can your company demonstrate the value of your local knowledge and relationship in the midst of the lure of Big Data? While I can’t predict the future, I can offer this recommendation — get ready! Disrupters are emerging in every corner of the seed business and agriculture. Prepare your staff, suppliers and even your customers for the inevitability of change. New technology will continue to spur new market entrants and the com- pletion of the major mergers will drive new relationships and shifting alliances. All of this means that even your child- hood self may not recognize the seed business in a few years. Make sure you’re ready for it!