ISF Announces New Event to Encourage Next Generation of Leaders

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The seed industry is teeming with opportunity. Labor challenges, consumer acceptance and ongoing regulatory hurdles could shortchange opportunities for advancements.

The International Seed Federation (ISF) is hoping to connect seed industry veterans with new faces and industries during its 2022 Future Generation event, sponsored by Rijk Zwaan and Syngenta during the World Seed Congress. Here attendees will learn from special projects focusing on multifaceted perceptions on the seed sector, and can connect with people from around the world.

“The idea is to bridge generations because there is so much we can all learn from each other,” says Francine Sayoc, ISF communications manager. “As we’re seeing more young professionals in the seed sector and even new faces from outside of seed, we’re hoping to facilitate a space for interaction and sharing ideas.”

International MBA Students Join to Spark Conversation

Together with Rijk Zwaan and Syngenta, ISF is welcoming MBA students from Spain’s prestigious IESE Business School who will present detailed analysis of the seed sector’s impact on various topics. They’ll take an objective look on topics that can cause friction between consumers and agriculture companies.

“There is a broad range of topics that constitute our license to operate and enable us to do our business,” says Kees Knulst, Rijk Zwaan specialist public affairs. “Public opinion is, of course, a key aspect here. As seed sector, we want to connect with all stakeholder groups, because we are convinced that together, we need to address the challenge to produce sufficient, affordable, safe and nutritious food for all. Seeds are at the basis of people’s daily meals and therefore play an essential role in the world’s food supply. The students chose from topics our team selected and we provided  guidance and coaching and connections with the industry so they could perform their research and come up with recommendations to the seed sector.”

Students will dive into topics such as intellectual property rights, asking questions such as ‘Do we actually need IP? What would happen without it?’ The goal is not to have students find answers that tell the seed industry what it already knows, but to challenge professionals to think outside their comfort zones.

Topics include:

  • Making the case for business development in Nigeria
  • Ways the seed sector can contribute to findings solutions to climate change (with examples from Spain)
  • Building a case for plant breeders rights: sustainability, equitability and public perception

“We want to ask questions to the seed industry that we don’t normally ask ourselves,” Knulst says. “These students have altogether different backgrounds, just one has an agriculture background. Another has a pharmaceutical background, some are from management consultancies and they’re from all over the world – India, Singapore, the U.S. and Spain. I think they will bring interesting insights.”

It’s sure to spark interesting conversations between not only the students as they present their findings, but the entire session as well.

Encourage Seed Professionals

The labor market is experiencing shortages worldwide. The stakes are high for the seed industry – not only is it the foundation of the food supply, it also requires professionals with a high level of expertise. It’s critical to encourage new members of this industry, at any age.

“We want this Future Generation event to be a fun, casual meet-and-greet for people across the industry,” Sayoc says. “It’s a great opportunity to create mentor-mentee relationships and find ways to learn from people across the industry.”

This is the first time ISF has hosted an event of this nature and the organization hopes it’s encouraging to new professionals, whether they’re new to the industry or fresh out of university, or seasoned seed veterans.

“Having a mentor when I joined the seed industry meant a lot to me,” Sayoc adds. “I joined the world of seed in 2011 and Simon Groot, 2019 World Food Prize Laureate, taught me about this sector and how we serve farmers. This mentorship early in my career is something I find very important now working for ISF.

“The best mentors are the ones who really leave an impact and teach you the meaning behind what you’re doing and the purpose of our sector. I think this event could help connect mentors and mentees in a meaningful way,” she adds.