Seed Biotechnology Center
Seed Biotechnology Center
Seed Biotechnology Center
University of California
Seed Biotechnology Center

Seed Business 101

Attracting and retaining talented new employees is a critical challenge for the seed industry. The Seed Business 101 course was created, with input from industry executives, to accelerate the careers of promising new employees and young managers.

By selecting and sponsoring employees to attend this course, companies acknowledge past performance and invest in accelerated professional development.

The course also offers invaluable insights and perspective to seed dealers and companies offering products and services to the seed industry, including seed treatments, crop protection, seed enhancement and technology, machinery and equipment, etc.

Core Curriculum

The goal of Seed Business 101 is to enhance each participant’s career performance and help them avoid costly mistakes. The course is designed to focus on the optimum operations of the five major functional areas of a seed company.

  • Plant Breeding Research
  • Production
  • Operations
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Administration

The course offers participants a broad understanding of the major aspects of a seed company’s operations and a cross-departmental knowledge of best practices for profitability. Four case studies have been custom designed to immerse each participant in decision making roles in all five functional areas of a fictitious seed company. The course is designed to maximize interactive participation and team building.

Participants are introduced to the fundamentals of genetics and plant breeding, variety life cycle, supply chain and production planning, profitability, financials of the seed and trait business.  The context for the case studies is provided by introducing the company history, organizational structure, sales history and financials.  The first case study is dealing with marketing/sales is introduced in the afternoon.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Participants will be divided into several working groups for Cases II, III and IV to study critical processes in a seed company’s daily life:

  • inventory management
  • gearing up to enter a new market
  • decision on the future of the Company

Additional information on production, operations, production research, inventory management, R&D and budgets, specific to the company activities is introduced with the additional case studies.  Guest speakers, industry experts in the areas of the case studies, present before the group work.  At the end of each case study, each group will present the optimum strategy, followed by discussion and instructors’ recommendations.

An off-site visit will be made to a local seed company, a university or other business related to the seed industry on one of these days.

Team presentations on the last case study and instructor critiques are conducted, followed by a course recap, final Q&A and course evaluation. A Certificate of Completion will be awarded to each successful graduate.

SB101- Field Crops Instructors

This course emphasizes field crops as examples in the curriculum.

Rale Gjuric, SBC Education Director, is also the President of HAPLOTECH Inc., a company specialized in technical services and consulting in plant breeding. He held the positions of Breeding Manager of DL Seeds; Research and Managing Director of DSV Canada; all in Winnipeg Canada. Dr. Gjuric is an accomplished plant breeder with numerous canola varieties and hybrids released in his 15 years in the private sector. His current focus is in service to the plant breeding industry with special interest in organization and optimization of plant breeding programs.

Dr. Tom Francis has over 30 years of experience in the seed business. He started as a research scientist with Agriculture Canada. Subsequently he joined Northrup King and ultimately became Vice President of Research for the U.S. Following, Dr. Francis joined Syngenta and became the Global Head of Product Evaluation and Assessment prior to retiring. Dr. Francis has served in leadership positions for both the Canadian and American seed trade associations. Today he consults and maintains a special interest in attracting and developing new talent within the seed industry.

Dave Westphal has more than 41 years of diverse management experience in worldwide agribusiness. He has held leadership positions with Holden’s Foundation Seeds LLC, Corn States Business Services, Hawaiian Research for Monsanto, Sansako Seeds, Carnia Seeds and Cargill grain origination, crop protection and fertilizer distribution businesses both domestic and international. He is the founder and CEO of D3 Consulting, LLC and a member of the Context firm. Currently he is engaged in consulting activities with foundations and alliances in Africa working with start-up seed businesses.  

SB101- Horticulture Instructors

This course emphasizes flowers and vegetable crops as examples in the curriculum.

Maurice Smith’s career in vegetable seeds spans more than 36 years. Before becoming an independent consultant in 2009, he was President and COO of Harris Moran Seed Company. During extensive working periods in the UK, France, Netherlands and the USA, Maurice has held senior Sales, Marketing and Corporate Management positions at Tézier, Petoseed, Seminis, Nickerson-Zwaan and Harris Moran. With a broad international experience, he has managed seed companies and subsidiaries in over 20 countries worldwide.

Pieter Vandenberg began his 44 year career in the seed industry in genetic research and plant breeding and concluded as VP Technical Resources / Worldwide Product Complaints for Seminis. Early on he was a breeder at Northrup King and also at Petoseed, later serving in senior executive positions with Sunseeds as VP Quality Assurance and General Manager of Nickerson-Zwaan USA. His expertise covers plant breeding research, seed production, stockseed, company administration, quality assurance and product complaint resolution.

John Sorenson’s seed career of 35 years began at NC State University as Associate Professor of Genetics. He then joined the Asgrow Seed Company where he held several high-level leadership positions. Following Asgrow’s integration into Seminis he was named Sr. Vice President for North America. He later joined Syngenta to become the Head of the North American Seed businesses, and served his final year before retirement as Head of Biotechnology. He is currently Chairman of the Board and CEO of Vestaron, a biotech startup in Michigan.





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