Software Solutions Provide Tools to Carve Diamonds Hidden in Rocks

- Inbar Stern

People live, breath and die for their work. Many spend years developing expertise and each in their own way, contribute to the world. Most of us don’t get worldwide recognition or big rewards, it is our passion that drives us to continue doing what we are good at and what we like. For plant breeders, new varieties are their diamonds. They need good tools to carve them from stone.

Have you ever thought of a person’s title and how little it tells about what they know or what is the life experience that led them to this specific point in the present? What if our titles were like a pedigree that the breeder keeps for each line? I guess mine was something like: (school teacher/school principle) art school-> social work BA-> computer programmer-> senior business analyst-> VP of sales and business development.

I was not always VP of sales and business development. I have been working side by side with breeders since 2006. I learned their business, and I learned how to provide them with information management solutions to support their work. My interest in breeding has deepened with time. Like them, I’ve developed my own passion for breeding, although mine was from a software perspective and how to help breeders create food in the form of best varieties in their crop – how to carve diamonds.

The need for software solutions is never-ending. Many processes need coverage: germplasm management, trial workflows, parents and lines, traits, observations, inventory tracking, reports, label analyses and on and on. Breeders work in many levels: with management, with trial officers and sales, with labs, with colleagues, technicians and others. Despite all these interfaces and team work, the hard-core breeding is ultimately done alone. No one tells them what to do. The success of the breeding program is entirely dependent on the breeder and his or her skills to make good decisions.

Seed companies invest millions of dollars in trials with a single purpose: to make decisions. Huge amounts of data are collected but when it is time to make a decision, there is a pain point. If data are not presented the right way to support good decisions, results will not always be the best they could be, and the breeding program may not fulfill its potential. This risks the whole company. In fact, it can take years to realize that the program is not successful. Breeders know that and seek ways to avoid this from happening — a lot of responsibility.

Breeders cannot produce quality results out of thin air. Like in any field these days, technology can support them and assure they stay focused and make the best decisions. A friend and owner of a respected seed company once told me, “Your software provides the tools I supply my team with when I send them to find diamonds hidden in rocks. My varieties are my diamonds. My breeders need good tools to carve them from stone. Not just a pen and a paper.”