ISF World Seed Congress 2024: Resilience and Optimism Amidst Challenges

By Christophe Dumont

The International Seed Federation World Seed Congress 2024, held in Rotterdam, Netherlands, brought together over 2,000 attendees from the global seed industry. The event provided valuable insights into the current challenges and opportunities facing this vital sector.

Resilience and Optimism Amidst Challenges

Despite facing numerous challenges, including geopolitical risks, regulatory hurdles, climate change impacts, water scarcity, and labor shortages, I saw firsthand the seed industry leaders remaining optimistic about long-term prospects of the sector. This demonstrates a culture of resilience no the least in the seed breeder community, who redouble efforts to bring new varieties to feed a growing population.

While the seed industry grapples with immediate challenges like the impact on agricultural exports from local conflicts, the fundamental drivers of growth remain strong. With the global population projected to increase by 1 billion by 2030, reaching nearly 10 billion by 2050, demand will continue to rise steadily.

Innovation and Partnerships

To address the accelerating effects of climate change, seed companies are intensifying their breeding efforts to develop climate-resilient varieties. However, this process can take 10 to 15 years, highlighting the urgency for innovation in terms of breeding technologies to accelerate breeding cycles. Smaller seed companies, often family-owned businesses, are compelled to form partnerships to sustain long-term innovation, investing up to 30% of their revenue in research and development annually.

Talent Acquisition and Diversity

It was no surprise that labor scarcity emerged as a significant concern across all levels, from field workers to executive leadership. Companies are actively seeking creative solutions to attract and retain talent, recognizing the impending retirement of baby boomers and the need for a robust talent pipeline. While organizations are exploring new initiatives such as dedicated student outreach programs aimed at recruiting new employees annually – underscoring the industry’s efforts to engage with the next generation of professionals early on, concerted efforts in succession planning would benefit this industry significantly to ensure a smooth transfer of knowledge and leadership, and thereby maintaining operational continuity and stability.

Diversity, particularly gender diversity, remains a challenge within the seed industry. While some progress has been made, the seed sector continues to grapple with a significant gender imbalance, highlighting the need for concerted efforts to promote greater diversity and inclusion of female professionals. Addressing these diversity challenges is crucial for the seed industry to foster innovation, adapt to changing market demands, and ensure the development of seed varieties that meet the needs of diverse farming communities and environments.

As the seed industry navigates these challenges, its resilience, commitment to innovation, and efforts to attract diverse talent will shape its ability to meet the growing global demand for food sustainably.


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