Seeds Canada 2023 Annual Conference Recap

July 20, 2023 – This year’s Seeds Canada Annual Conference – held July 10-12 in St. John’s, Newfoundland – brought together seed analysts, developers, growers, processors, and distributors from across Canada under the theme Seed Innovation = Sustainability.

“Whether it be food supply gaps made more evident by the pandemic or climate events hitting us at increased frequency and severity, we have all been impacted by these disruptions. The unprecedented times have highlighted the critical role seed technology plays. I believe I speak on behalf of our members, leadership, and staff when I say we take our responsibility towards sustainable solutions seriously, which includes advocating for an enabling environment for innovation and timely access to technologies. The discussions held at this meeting – particularly those pertaining to sustainability and regulatory modernization – have been invaluable as we plan our work in the coming months,” said Seeds Canada President Ellen Sparry.

Sustainability was Front and Centre
The meeting featured Dr. Evan Fraser, Director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, who provided an insightful keynote on the challenges of feeding the future sustainability and opportunities for Canada and the seed sector, noting the solution requires science and technology, as well as policy, education, and economic changes.

Prior to the meeting, Seeds Canada released its draft Sustainability Action Plan for consultation with members. Attendees were given an overview of the Action Plan, which identified four key efforts: Advocate for genetic innovation and seed’s contribution to sustainability; Be a catalyst, facilitator, and supporter of sustainability conversations and initiatives in the seed sector; Partner for impact; and, Develop resources to support members in adopting best practices for sustainable production and delivery of seed and seed technology.

The meeting also featured a panel, moderated by Seed World Group, with five industry leaders who spoke about what sustainability means to their operations and why it is important for our sector to get involved.

Following the panel, attendees took part in table discussions to solicit feedback on the Action Plan and help chart the course forward for Seeds Canada. Staff will work with the feedback to develop a “What We Heard” report and take the next steps on the Action Plan.

Sustainability Panel, L-R: Shawn Brook (Moderator, Seed World Group), Simon Ellis (Ellis Farm Supplies), Georges Chaussé (Sollio Agriculture), Ray Daniels (BASF North America), Karis Gutter (Corteva Agriscience North America), and Trevor Nysetvold (SGS Canada).

Spotlight on Innovation
This year, Germination and Seeds Canada partnered to launch the Innovation Showcase. A call was put out to organizations making strides in agriculture with technology development. The meeting featured presentations from the finalists: 20/20 Seeds Labs, Advanced Molecular and DNA Tests for Crop Threat Identification; Lucent Bio, Micronutrient Seed Coatings for Sustainable Crop Nutrition; and the Buhler Group, AI for Enhanced Seed Processing. The discussions were recorded for the Germination ‘Seed Speaks’ podcast and will be available shortly. More information about the applicants can be accessed here

Diversity and Inclusion for a Strengthened Workforce
Attendees also heard from Jennifer Wright, Executive Director of Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), who talked about changes to the workforce through a diversity and inclusion lens.  She noted that Canada is currently facing high job vacancies, historically low unemployment, and record retirement rates – and that much of the needed workforce will come from immigrants. She pointed to resources CAHRC has developed, including the Workforce Strategic Plan and an AgriHR toolkit with e-courses, available this Fall.

The meeting also featured recorded remarks from the Honourable Marie Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland. 

During the Annual General Meeting portion of the event, Seeds Canada’s CEO, Barry Senft provided an update on Seeds Canada’s initiatives, noting increased communications and engagement with members and clients as the organization’s focus for its second year of operation. As an example, Seeds Canada embarked on its first Winter Tour this year, meeting with over 60 members, clients, and stakeholders in five different provinces.

Seed Regulatory Modernization
Seeds Canada was pleased to welcome the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to its meeting, with remarks from CFIA President, Dr. Harpreet S. Kochhar and John Groenewegen who highlighted his findings from the CFIA-commissioned international benchmarking analysis of seed systems. Seeds Canada has long advocated for a bench marking report to be completed to inform the Seed Regulatory Modernization process. Learn more about Seeds Canada’s takeaways from the report here.  

Elected Leadership
This year also included Seeds Canada’s first Board of Director and Executive elections. Seeds Canada is happy to announce that Ellen Sparry (C&M Seeds) continues as President and Brent Collins (BASF) was elected as the new Vice-President. Thank you to all nominees for running, and congratulations to the newly elected Board members. 

“Our leadership has always gone above and beyond. I am confident this team will provide excellent direction to our organization. And as we like to say, ‘Let’s see what we can grow, together’. I’m looking forward to the advancements I know we will achieve in the coming year,” said Seeds Canada CEO, Barry Senft.

Seeds Canada would also like to express its sincere gratitude to the Board Members who will be retiring or stepping down, including Dianne Gilhuly (Kent Agri Lab), Georges Chaussé (Sollio Agriculture), Philippe Charlebois (Semican), and Quentin Martin (Cribit Seeds). Their expertise and contributions have greatly strengthened the organization.

Thank you to everyone who joined us in St. John’s, Newfoundland for our Annual Conference. In addition to the meetings, we trust participants enjoyed the warm Newfoundland hospitality with many partaking in whale watching, golfing, socializing, and of course, the customary Newfoundland screech-in ceremony.

Recordings and accompanying documentation will be uploaded to the Seeds Canada website in the coming days.

See you in Edmonton!
We are already looking forward to connect with members and partners next year at the 2024 Annual Conference in Edmonton, Alberta. Mark your calendars – July 8-11 – and stay tuned for more information.

Thank You to All Meeting Sponsors!

Media Inquiries:
Director of Government Relations, Lise Newton

Seeds Canada is the leading voice of the seed sector in Canada, with members including analysts, breeders, distributors, processors, seed growers and other contributors to the industry, located from coast to coast. Seed is the vital first link in the agriculture value chain, contributing over $6 billion to the economy, employing more than 63,000 Canadians, and exporting more than $700 million annually.