Seed World

MCIA wins AOSCA’s First Annual Excellence in Innovation Award MCIA


The Minnesota Crop Improvement Association’s international education and other diversification efforts recognized with first annual Excellence in Innovation Award from the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA).

At its 2023 Annual Meeting held June 5, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) presented its first annual Excellence in Innovation award. The award is intended to encourage and recognize an agency that has meaningfully advanced the work of seed certification or related programs. To win the Excellence in Innovation award, a recipient agency not only contributes to the day-to-day work within agriculture, but also leads the industry forward via continual improvements and advancement.

The winner of AOSCA’s inaugural Excellence in Innovation award is the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIA).

“MCIA has a long history of industry service and leadership and is always ready and willing to lend an ear and provide forward-thinking advice and counsel,” said AOSCA’s president, Andy Altishin, when presenting the award. 

Alongside the typical tasks any seed certifying agency undertakes, MCIA also invests in numerous other efforts. In MCIA’s name, Dr. Fawad Shah, MCIA’s president and CEO, developed and continues to teach a class called Seed Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Minnesota. The MCIA team has developed multiple third-party audit-based, product and/or process verified programs. One of these includes a non-GMO grain traceability program that served as the concept and precursor to the U.S. Identity Preserved program. MCIA also regularly hosts and trains international seed professionals on topics relating to seed quality and testing, germplasm licensing and seed certification.

“It is a great honor to be chosen for this very prestigious award,” says Shah. 

“Certification is basically the sole purpose of a seed certification agency. But there are many organizations that, like ours, are involved in other things for a variety of reasons,” he adds. “Seed certification in the U.S. is not mandatory. So, while there are millions of acres of crop production in any given state, there are much fewer acres going into certification. In order for us to become more service oriented and relevant, our team and board of directors have looked into ways to become more valuable to the industry. I believe the award is holistic in nature for the various services we offer, including the international component, and the additional services to our overall work help increase our visibility across the globe.”

MCIA has served the Upper Midwest’s seed industry for more than a century. It was founded in 1903 with the goal to promote the breeding, growing, and distribution of improved field crop varieties. Its first directory of members was published in 1906, followed in 1912 by a listing of those offering inspected and approved seed. Minnesota amended its Seed Law in 1955 to recognize MCIA as its official seed certifying agency.

Today, MCIA represents and serves more than 750 members. The organization includes 21 full-time employees, with four field supervisors distributed across Minnesota. A dozen (and sometimes more) part-time, contract, and seasonal staff help with inspections and related work. The MCIA Board is made up of 11 directors elected from its general membership. 

MCIA was chosen for the Excellence in Innovation Award based on four criteria:

a) Using a novel approach to meet a challenge in the seed industry, 

b) Developing a unique way to enhance an AOSCA program, 

c) Implementing a new technique with an AOSCA Program, and 

d) Fostering growth of seed certification or a related program. 

“Why is this kind of award important?” asks AOSCA CEO, Sarah Willbanks. “Celebrating excellence in innovation is critically important to the seed industry.”

“The seed sector is evolving rapidly with innovation being crucial to the wellbeing of AOSCA agencies. AOSCA agencies like MCIA are utilizing their long-standing expertise to diversify their markets as well as to educate audiences that have yet to be reached.  These types of projects further the importance of utilizing third-party systems to create a top-quality crop,” she adds.

Congratulations to the MCIA team!

Which innovative agency would you like to celebrate? AOSCA will be seeking nominations for next year’s award winner in March 2024. Stay tuned for more information: we’ll have details available via