Meet the Future of the Seed Industry
With an outstanding pool of nominees for the Future Giants of the Seed Industry Award, the team at Seed World introduces the top three candidates.
While the seed industry is often focused on attracting more young, skilled and talented people, it sometimes forgets to recognize those who are making a difference and are passionate about the industry.
Each year, Seed World — in partnership with the Future Seed Executives, an initiative of the American Seed Trade Association — sponsors the Future Giants of the Seed Industry Award, which is presented at ASTA’s Annual Convention during the Future Seed Executives (FuSE) meeting. This year, we had several outstanding nominees. Below are the top three candidates. Be sure to watch their career paths as they will be the ones setting the course for the seed industry in the future.
Meet Chris Boomsma
A graduate of Purdue University’s Ph.D program in agronomy, Boomsma went to work for Dow AgroSciences in 2009 as a crop physiologist and agronomist. During the past five years, he’s transitioned into the area of adaptation development leader and currently serves as agronomic traits product characterization leader. The added responsibilities didn’t come without work. Boomsma has been active in the American Society of Agronomy and ASTA.
“Chris has been instrumental in reaching out across a large company, such as Dow AgroSciences, to pull experts together to collaborate and solve common research problems together,” says James Parks, who was Boomsma’s direct supervisor from 2009 to 2013. “He is a consistent generator of new ideas that are well thought out and highly respected by his peers.” Today, Boomsma is working with a team at Dow AgroSciences to help develop and execute the company’s precision agriculture strategy.
“Chris is a great ambassador for the industry, and is effective in encouraging students to think seriously about careers in the field,” says Tony Vyn, who served as Boomsma’s Ph.D mentor. “I don’t know of any young person more qualified to make a significant impact on the seed industry’s pursuit of corn stress tolerance and physiology-based yield advancements.”
Research in the seed industry brings together low- and high-tech research tools, laboratory and field research settings, and the daily employment of both well-established and leading-edge scientific discoveries. “Being a scientist, I naturally enjoy the multi-functional, cutting-edge nature of research in the modern seed industry,” Boomsma says. “It’s a real privilege to work in this industry at this time.”
Meet Dakota Lueken
Hailing from Colesburg, Iowa, Dakota Lueken recently graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and an emphasis on plant breeding. The 22-year old spent the past two summers working for DuPont Pioneer where he served as a maize product development seed science intern and as a herbicide trait characterization and development intern.
As the maize product development seed science intern, Lueken traveled to eight states and focused on characterizing stress emergence by scoring stand counts, vigor and other phenotypic traits that resulted from unfavorable conditions. He also developed and performed his own proprietary seed science research project, which he presented to DuPont Pioneer employees and fellow interns. As the herbicide trait characterization and development intern, Lueken assisted in conducting field trials that characterized the varying effects of different herbicides on DuPont Pioneer soybeans.
His work ethic, passion for the seed industry and summer internships earned him a full-time position with Pioneer.
“Dakota is a rare individual who has the capacity and passion to be a plant breeder,” says John Latham of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. Latham, who knows Lueken as Noble Ruler (president) through his Alpha Gamma Rho activities, believes Lueken shows tremendous leadership ability and will be a rising star in the seed industry. Most recently, Lueken has entered into DuPont Pioneer’s Emerging Leaders Program and moved to Constantine, Michigan, where he serves as a production agronomist for one of the company’s corn production locations. Lueken is responsible for field inspections, continuing grower relations, contracting, bin sampling and assisting with research projects.
“I would tell those looking to pursue a college education that agronomy is a great place to start,” Lueken says. “Not only does it expose you to the crop production aspect of agriculture, but it also exposes students to how instrumental science is to agriculture. There are so many other aspects to consider when growing corn than just what seed to plant. A degree in agronomy opens many doors to all sorts of companies, as it demonstrates an understanding of the science behind the production, which makes you very marketable.”
Meet Bethany Olson
Also a recent graduate of Iowa State University, Bethany Olson has chosen to focus her efforts on agricultural business and international agriculture. She served as a corn marketing intern in 2013 for DuPont Pioneer and had the opportunity to work directly with DuPont Pioneer’s senior corn marketing manager.
Olson grew up on a farm in Jewell, Iowa, which has helped her excel. “When Bethany started with DuPont Pioneer, she quickly noticed that many growers were lost with the technology options they now have on their farm,” says Reed Mayberry, who Olson reported to during her internship. “Her focus became making these solutions easier for customers to understand by putting the first-ever DuPont Pioneer Corn Insect Pest Management piece together.”
Olson continued her leadership and innovation by developing a unique marketing tool, which measured side-by-side comparisons of two drought products head-to-head in the field. “At last check it had more than 10,000 views on You Tube,” Mayberry shares.
Not only has Bethany started running ahead in the seed industry, but that same energy made her an NCAA athlete competing on Iowa State University’s cross-country and track teams.
Since graduation, Olson has entered into DuPont Pioneer’s Emerging Leaders Program and has been selected as one of two individuals from Pioneer to participate in the DuPont Commercial Development Program.
At the beginning of June, she moved to Hedrick, Iowa, where she works as a production agronomist focused on soybeans. After nine months there, she will relocate to Bloomington, Illinois, where she will serve in a sales and marketing role.
“As the younger generation steps into the seed industry, we have a tremendous amount of information to learn from older and wiser generations,” says Olson, who is 22. “We want to learn as much as we can from those with knowledge and wisdom from many years of industry experience and know that we only have a short amount of time to do it.
“Fortunately, I’ve had great mentors and been able to work with many different people who have been excited about helping me learn and grow as a young person in this industry. I hope that the more seasoned generations have confidence in us [younger generations] and our ability to step up to the plate to tackle the challenges of our time.”