Seed World

The CDC at 50: Taking our Brand to the Next Level

Curtis Pozniak
Director, Crop Development Centre

Fifty years and over five hundred commercial varieties — the Crop Development Centre’s legacy is a big one.

Harrington barley, Vimy flax, our spring wheat varieties — all have made their mark on the Canadian agricultural landscape. With our initial mandate being crop diversification, winter wheat production in Western Canada was once made up mostly of CDC varieties — to the tune of 90 per cent.

Looking back to the 1980s, the work of Al Slinkard put us on the map when he released the Laird lentil, which became the foundation of Western Canada’s multi-billion-dollar pulse industry.

Add to that our strong connections to stakeholders as well as investment from growers in the form of checkoffs and support from industry partners, and you have the foundation for success that the CDC has displayed over the course of the last half-century.

As we look ahead to a new year, our next step involves building on those successes to create a new, modernized brand for the CDC. Over the last year, I’ve been thinking more about how we can look to change what we’re doing as part of our evolution within the industry.

Part of this change involved restructuring the CDC’s management into two roles. It’s been a pleasure to work with Marissa Janssen who came on as CDC manager in 2020. This has allowed us to look forward and to develop strategies that will take us forward in making decisions and policy that will govern how we operate and contribute to Canadian agriculture in the future — which is what ultimately defines our brand.

The CDC’s brand is a strong one, especially among the farming community. Those three letters, especially when put in front of a variety name on a seed bag, carry a lot of weight. That said, we must change the way we communicate what it is that we do and the science behind it — especially to the next generation of growers coming up. They’re a very different breed in how they collect information and make decisions on-farm.

The Crop Development Centre is based in Saskatoon.

That means a new communications strategy, including a new logo, website, and a new strategy for informing the public about what is happening here in terms of research and new varieties.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we have to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Young farmers like to get their information in a multitude of ways, and those ways are changing all the time. More and more, successful agricultural brands have to be active on multiple channels, because they excel in multiple areas.

Obviously, plant breeding/cultivar development is our primary focus at the CDC, but we do so much more in the way of foundational research. We’re excellent teachers, scholars and have fantastic graduate and undergraduate programs designed to train the next generation of scientists to carry the ball forward.

A good brand is more than just a logo and a nice website and a Twitter account. It needs to promote knowledge transfer, innovation and have clear and measurable metrics and commitments around what it is that we can help to accomplish through effective research agreements, funding and strategies to protect intellectual property.

Those are all part of a good, modern brand, and we intend to be leaders in this area. Current events like seed regulatory modernization and the federal review of Canada’s novel food regulations are going to help create the business environment we need to do this.

Next year is going to be an exciting one, as we begin to turn the corner on the pandemic and continue to make the CDC one of Canada’s premier brands in the world of seed. Stay tuned.