Seed World

Lorne Hadley Likes to Listen and Avoids 10-Dollar Words

Lorne Hadley is executive director of the Canadian Plant Technology Agency.

Germination presents a series of stories on the 20 most influential people in the seed sector in 2018. Want to nominate someone for 2019? Email with the subject line “Top 20 nomination”!

As someone whose job it is to safeguard the intellectual property (IP) of plant breeders, you might consider Lorne Hadley to be the plant breeder’s patron saint. As executive director of the Canadian Plant Technology Agency, Hadley leads the action agency working to ensure intellectual property is respected in Canada.

Since he took over as executive director of the CPTA in 2001, it has issued 700 warnings to PBR violators, launched 70 investigations, logged 4,500 hours investigating IP violations, and obtained four settlements over $200,000.

“One thing that has made me successful in this is role is I’ve worked in so many areas of this industry over the past 35 years. I’ve been a seed salesman, operated a processing plant, supervised seed sales, supervised people in management, sales and marketing, you name it. When I’m in a room doing a presentation on Plant Breeders’ Rights for frontline staff, I can be an effective educator because I’ve likely been in the shoes of almost everyone in that room,” he says.

(Lorne Hadley talks about how he’s become such an effective educator.)

Hadley’s journey through the industry began when he was a boy, growing up on a farm in west central Saskatchewan. After earning an agricultural economics degree from the University of Saskatchewan, he’d eventually go on to become a sales manager for Proven Seed.

“We took that brand from just a vision to being a major player in the seed sector in Western Canada. We had a dedicated retail force and good relationships with seed growers. We got good varieties that were well adopted,” he says.

The experience also taught him the value of IP, and why the issue of IP in seed can be an emotional one for everyone involved.

“There are not a lot of products a farmer absolutely cannot can’t do without. You have to have and own seed to plant a crop, without exception. It puts it on a different emotional level than most other inputs,” Hadley says.

(Listen to Lorne Hadley talk about why seed is such an emotional topic.)

After leaving Proven’s Seed’s parent company in 2001, he formed AgGenuity Consulting, and was shortly afterward hired on to serve as CPTA’s executive director on a contract basis. He’s since become known as an indispensable educator on the issue of IP in seed, which can be a thorny topic among farmers at the best of times.

“I try hard to use words that everyone understands, and use them in ways everyone understands, and not fall into the trap of using too many acronyms and what older farmers often call 10-dollar words,” he says.

“I’ve always believed there are no bad questions, and you need to let people who are upset speak. If someone doesn’t like what’s going on, you should listen and try to understand them first before you respond. Sometimes that’s difficult, but you have to get to the stage of letting the person who’s upset get enough off their chest so they’re ready to receive your answer.”

With the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project in full swing (it’s meant to design a next-generation seed regulatory system for the country), Hadley sees a hugely significant opportunity to make PBR and intellectual property rights centre stage like never before.

“Ninety-five per cent of producers fully support the belief that we need new varieties, and those new varieties have to be paid for, and they can pay for that through the purchase of seed and the use of contracts where the user pays,” Hadley adds.

“We as a society value innovation and want innovators to be rewarded, but we also want to have a system where others who want to innovate can do so and build on what’s been done and make it better.”

(Lorne Hadley talks about why Seed Synergy is so significant to the issue of IP protection.)