Seed World

9 Bright Minds of the Industry

These influencers all have one thing in common — they broke into the industry as young people with big ambitions and are all making their mark and inspiring others.


It Runs in the Family

  • Org: Southern Seed/J&C Farms (Manitoba)
  • Job: Farm Manager/Sales Executive
  • Age: 24

Why do you do what you do?

I went to the University of Manitoba. One evening I was hanging out with those notorious “aggies”, and one of them had left a test on the table. I picked up the test and started flipping through it. “Hey, I know the answer to that one,” I said. “I know that one, and I know that one.” It hit me that this was something I should study.

What are some of your biggest accomplishments that you’re most proud of?

In 2018 I was named a Canadian Seed Trade Association Future Influencer. In 2019 I grew my first pedigreed seed crop under my own grower number. I’m also vice-president of the Keystone Agricultural Producers and co-chair of the Manitoba Young Farmers.

What issue is most important for you?

There’s a massive disconnect between industry (which includes us farmers) and those eating the food that gets produced. That disconnect is affecting our policies, government programming and trade.

Be Persistent

  • Org: Crop Development Centre, University of Saskatchewan
  • Job: Forage breeder
  • Age: 42

How did you get into forage?

I grew up on a livestock and forage farm, and that really helps me to understand the whole forage world. My undergrad was done in forage science; M.Sc. in grazing management, and my PhDs centred on perennial forage physiology and breeding.

Why forage?

I’m originally from Inner Mongolia, China. Livestock and forage grass are so important to me, and play a huge role in the culture of the Mongolian people, who traditionally have been very nomadic. Many still are.

Advice for others?

Be persistent. I like this work. At one time, there were not many jobs in forage, but I continued in this direction until I eventually found success. It takes a long time to develop a good variety, but it has a long-lasting impact.

High Resolution Agronomy

  • Org: Alberta Wheat & Barley Commissions
  • Title: Agronomy Research Extension Specialist
  • Age: 33

How did you become an agronomist?

I grew up on a farm in Ontario. I went to the University of Guelph and took horticultural science there and followed up with a master’s in plant physiology, and then I started with Cargill as a sales rep. Within four months of being there, I quickly took the agronomist role that had opened because I knew that was kind of the direction I wanted to go. I love consulting with growers and helping solve their problems. Coming to Alberta Wheat & Barley has really allowed me to spread my wings.

Why do you love it so much?

If I know that what I’m doing may have the impact of 1% yield and profitability impact on a farm and I know that I’m helping to feed people, I can go home and feel rewarded for what I do. Agronomy is like the resolution of a TV screen. When you work with low resolution, you kind of get the general picture, but the fine details might be missing. And as we take steps up that adoption curve, the resolution of that screen gets stronger, and you get to see more detail.

Don’t be Afraid to Pick up the Phone

  • Name: Mira van Burck
  • Org: SeCan
  • Job: Marketing Rep, Southern Alberta/Southern Saskatchewan
  • Age: 27

How did you first get involved with SeCan?

I finished a degree in agriculture and resource economics at the University of Alberta in 2018 and I decided to do some travelling. I was in a hostel in Bangkok, Thailand, when I heard about the position. I got all my references and everything all together, and two months later I was starting. That was June of 2018.

Advice for others looking to enter the marketing profession?

Always ask questions and wonder why. You don’t have to know everything. Be honest and say, ‘Hey, that’s a great question. I don’t know your answer, but I will find out and we can revisit this.’ Also, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. I feel like our generation can get so nervous to pick up the phone to talk to people.

Try New Things

  • Name: Madison Spyk
  • Org: SeCan (Ontario)
  • Job: Marketing Assistant
  • Age: 25

Why do you do what you do?

I majored in crop science. I didn’t grow up on a farm but really loved ag and marketing, so hearing about the position got me really intrigued. It was a steep learning curve, but I love it. I think I’m the youngest at SeCan can right now.

What do you like best about it?

I get to see all the different aspects of marketing seed. The internet has changed everything and totally revolutionized how seed is created and sold. I get to be at the forefront of that.

Advice for others?

Just because you didn’t come from a farm background, don’t think you can’t get involved in ag. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Utilizing Nutrients Better

  • Name: Mackenzie Collette
  • Org: Richardson (Manitoba)
  • Job: Fertilizer Coordinator
  • Age: 23

What sparked your interest in this?

Agriculture has always been part of my life. I did a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Manitoba, but I always kind of assumed that I’d go back to agriculture. I actually applied here for a summer position, and I didn’t get the job. I applied for a different one, and ended up getting student position with Peter Entz, assistant vice-president of seed and traits. Then I started in fertilizer, which is where I am now.

What’s most exciting for you about working on the nutrient side of things?

With my knowledge of farming I’ve really been able to see how and why nutrients work on the farm and what nutrients fit into what situations. We often think that fertilizer is just fertilizer, but we’re learning more every day about the science of it and how we can better utilize these inputs.


Be ready for a steep learning curve. And get ready to work super long hours in the spring. width=

Getting Involved

  • Name: Kara Nadeau
  • Org: Nadeau Seeds (Manitoba)
  • Job: Sales, Marketing & Farm Operations
  • Age: 32

How did you get into this?

I’ve always had a passion for plants and agriuclture and my interest was strengthened by the wisdom passed down from my parents.

Advice for others?

Get involved. That’s the way to really make a difference. I am part of the Seeds Canada Communications & Advocacy Committee. Being involved helps me keep up to date with big changes that are happening, and that helps me better inform our customers of those changes.


Erasing Boundaries

  • Name: Simranjit Singh
  • Org: FP Genetics (Saskatchewan)
  • Job: Seed Production Agronomist
  • Age: 35

What’s your story?

I’m originally from India, a state called Punjab, which is in the northern part of India. It’s very similar to Saskatchewan, as the majority of people there are in agriculture. India and Saskatchewan are different in many ways, but I brought my love of farming with me to Canada. I did my agriculture degree here at the University of Saskatchewan. I got a job with Dow Agrosciences in their canola research program. In 2018 I arrived at FP Genetics.

What do you like about being at FP?

I get to work a lot with the scientific community, breeders, pathologists. As I also work with growers. I see all the sides of the business. The traditional boundaries of my job are disappearing in a lot of ways, and that’s really critical for success now in my field.

Problem-Solving from Above

  • Name: Alex Zelem
  • Org: C&M Seeds
  • Job: Agronomist
  • Age: 27

Why agronomy?

I’ve always enjoyed being in the field, learning different things, problem solving. A couple years ago, we had really bad winter kill and lost a lot of winter wheat. Using modern technology like satellite imagery, we were able to look at the field as a whole. In the end, we had a good growing season that year as we managed to find spots that had not been wiped out and save them.

What’s one major technological wish of yours?

Doing soil and tissue tests in-field is kind of the next frontier. We could work so much faster if we could do even more out in the field and get real-time results.

This feature is a part of the Canadian Plant Breeding Innovation Scholarship program. All people profiled are part of at least one of our sponsor organizations. If you’d like information on sponsoring an annual CPBI scholarship, email