Seed production challenges & solutions - how technology helps

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Feistritzer (1975) claims that seed is the carrier of new technologies  – literally and figuratively. Seed quality is the culmination of the correct application of multiple agriculture inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. These play a vital role in enhancing agricultural production. 

For instance, research shows that introducing quality seeds of new varieties, along with other inputs, significantly increased yield levels for cereals (up to 112%), potato (24%), and sugar beet (142%) in the United States and Europe. In India, cultivating high yielding varieties skyrocketed food production from 52 million tonnes to 180 million tonnes over 40 years! The impact of high-quality seeds cannot be ignored or undermined. 

So, the real question then becomes: 

“How to ensure optimum quantities of input for high-yielding seed varieties? 

We have the answer in one word for you: Technology. 

Three key challenges seed companies face during the production period 

For the scope of this article, we will focus on three critical challenges encountered by seed companies during the production period. 

  1. Ensuring the right conditions: Producing high-quality, disease-free seeds is dependent on managing two critical factors during the production cycle:
  • The first is ascertaining exposure to the right kind of environmental conditions, temperatures, and nutrients to ensure genetic purity–the absence of which can lead to seed non-germination. 
  • The second is optimizing the cost of production for the average farmer while ensuring maximum profit for the seed company.  

For a seed to be considered of ‘great’ quality,  the yield should be higher by 20-25% than the existing variety, or it should demonstrate desirable attributes such as disease resistance, drought resistance, etc. 

This is where a ‘smart’ farm management solution can: 

  • Accurately predict the permutation and combination of environmental factors needed to produce quality seeds. Use of technology and digitization results in seeds that are: 
  • produced with scientific knowledge, organized effort, and investments in storage, marketing, and processing seeds 
  • of assured pedigree 
  • free of diseased and objectionable traits during the production cycle. 
  • Identify critical data points in the seed planting, growth, and harvest stages 
  • Drive farmer engagement by producing real-time weather advisory warnings along with a list of proactive actions to be taken to ensure high seed output 
  • Set pest and disease alerts to prevent seed wastage–a significant advantage as research indicates that over 20-40% of global crop production is lost to pests annually. 

Technology can be used for farmer engagement, and weather warnings can be given to farmers along with a list of actions to be taken.  

  1. Selecting the appropriate sites for seed production: Site selection is essential to birthing high-quality seeds. There are multiple factors at play–from ensuring the right soil type and boosting fertility to understanding the cropping history and ensuring the availability of pest control as well as insect pollinators. Moreover, identifying the planting density is also paramount. Manually monitoring all these factors is a near-impossible task. Site selection takes paramount importance as the availability of the land resource is limited.

This is where using futuristic technologies such as an open-source geographic information system (GIS), a satellite-based remote sensing system, and drones can help in remotely conducting site selection for a specific crop. 

These Agtech tools analyze field plots and corresponding data sets pertaining to parameters such as seed health, growth, input management, etc., to maximize per acre value. Then suitable sites are identified, and a snapshot of the field along with invaluable IoT-driven data for insights in a centralized dashboard is provided. 

  1. Tackling cost inefficiencies in monitoring the production process: Most often, seed companies encounter crippling production issues and witness cost-inefficiencies in tracking the production process. 

This can be addressed by using an AI-powered business intelligence tool that assists in the data collection and review process. This 'data-driven' tool can offer actionable insights into what's working and, more importantly, what's not so that corrective measures can be implemented with speed and efficiency. The end result is higher seed output at optimized costs and improved quality, leading to increased profits and ROI. Transparency is in-built in the process. 

Technology is the efficient enabler 

Experts claim that the green revolution was, in fact, a form of seed revolution, owing to the production of pure seeds possessing beneficial qualities such as high generation, high physical purity, high vigor, and sound health. Today, rapid advancements in AI-powered technology make this reality easily possible and pave the way for the next revolution.  

Using technology is becoming the gold standard for seed companies to ensure higher yield, greater transparency, and end-to-end traceability of seeds during production. As a bonus, it is doubling up as a cost-effective proposition. 

By leveraging emerging technologies such as IoT, Big Data, Blockchain, etc., seed companies can live up to the promise of high-quality seed production. Cropin’s farm-to-fork traceability solution is one such tool that promises adulteration-free, high-quality seeds. Seed companies can monitor input usage, manage seed health, and leverage actionable insights to literally lay the foundation for high-yielding seeds and experience improved profitability and, of course, ROI. 

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