Seed certification is vital to building trust and confidence in the customer and is the key to sustainable farming. Certification can also be considered as the first step toward a successful crop cycle. Research indicates that to the total production, the direct contribution of a quality seed varies between 15–20% (depending on the crop). Efficient management of specific other inputs increases the scope of seed contribution to as high as 45%.
On the stakeholder side, accurately identifying crop varieties ensures that every stakeholder handling the seed–from the breeder to the distributor–offers high-quality, low contaminant seeds at every stage of the development process. This makes seed certification a crucial aspect for farmers and seed companies alike.
Certified seeds will demonstrate enhanced traits such as pest resistance, improved grazing tolerance, and herbicide resilience. In terms of identity markers for seed quality, there are four classes of certified seeds: nucleus, breeder, foundation, and certified.
Challenges of a seed certification process
Seed certification is vital to ensure seeds meet strict standards and are disease-free. Various parameters must be carefully assessed to decide which seeds comply with quality benchmarks. As with any regulatory procedure, this also comes with its challenges. For the scope of this article, we will focus on four primary challenges.
The undaunting task of covering farming standards set by certification services
Setting the right standards and benchmarks for seed production is not an easy task. Certification companies set farming standards based on the requirements and safety of end consumers in a customized Farm-Level Survey Form. It becomes challenging to outline the basic requirements to safeguard the end consumer's and the farmer's interests.
An AI-powered technological smart agriculture app can tackle this challenge by offering the following:
1. Outline acceptable standards of seed viability, vigor, purity, and health and disseminate this information among key stakeholders–from the government and the farmer to the certification agency and the seed company
2. Drive awareness among farmers about seed health and gather critical data by way of a customized farm-level survey form–one that’s available at the tip of their fingertips
3. Help certification agencies identify newer varieties with evolved best practices and delegate appropriate names as needed
An improved and digitized data collection process can lay the foundation for an accurate and up-to-date seed certification process–a win-win for all.
Maintaining a record of each farming activity after completion
Often, farmers face tremendous difficulty while recording the status and success of each seed activity after completion. Without a systematic approach to seed development documentation, the output and health can suffer. By extension, the certification standards can plummet.
Digitalization of data by farmers can:
1. Ensure continuous, accurate, and real-time documentation of the seed origin as well as traceability
2. Track and even geotag the status of each production process
3. Drive a more proactive approach towards identifying and reporting issues (for instance, fake labels within the supply chain) among key stakeholders promptly
Need to regulate and track critical parameters
Another critical challenge encountered by seeding companies is regulating and tracking critical parameters that impact seed quality, such as:
1. The amount of quality seed used
2. Pesticide residue
3. Seed health alerts raised
4. Issues that need resolution during cultivation
5. Crop quality
Effective use of Agtech tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), remote sensing, and satellite imagery goes a long way in regulating the above parameters. Consolidating inputs AI/ML tools provide actionable insights to farmers on crop health, weather, pests and disease. Using digitization in agriculture, farmers’ actions can also be tracked.
Eliminating the ever-present problem of adulteration
Seed adulteration poses a massive challenge to seeding companies, as it is extremely difficult to differentiate between a spurious seed and a genuine one. This arises from the lack of traceability in supply chain practices, which impairs the verification of seed authenticity. Traceability can be achieved by leveraging QR-code tagging during the process of packaging and warehousing. An end-to-end solution for packhouse and processing will ensure traceability, compliance, quality control, and flexible inventory management.
The Bottom Line
In light of the challenges mentioned above, extracting insight-driven reports and submitting them for quality certification becomes difficult. Integrating technology can ease these issues faced by seed companies and facilitate end-to-end traceability of produce, even beyond the point of harvest. It can also help monitor the amount of agrochemicals and pesticides used.
One such use case is intelligent Agtech company Cropin's partnership with PAGREXCO (Punjab Agri Export Corporation), that improved quality and traceability of potato seeds. The use of Agtech solutions provided by Cropin helped improve seed quality and the production process. Cropin’s ‘Smartfarm’, a farm management software helped PAGREXCO with real-time intelligence and end-to-end traceability, in addition to enabling two-way communication between farmers and PAGREXCO.
Thus digitalizing the seed certification process can bring greater traceability and transparency into the ecosystem and enhance consumers' trust. It also has the potential to improve farmers' income. It can improve the efficiency, integrity, and security of certification systems and positively impact seed production at the ground level.