Seed World

IPSA 2024: Day 2 – HR to Leadership to Science & Tech

Welcome from IPSA CEO Todd Martin and theme introduction from outgoing IPSA board president Chris Latham

In the opening session, IPSA CEO Todd Martin welcomed attendees and talked about the value of IPSA to its members and to the industry. He said the planning committee worked hard to give attendees a first-class experience at the conference and encouraged attendees to interact with the sponsors and build relationships across the seed value chain to strengthen the industry. 

Outgoing IPSA board president and third-generation seedsman Chris Latham spoke about the theme of the 2025 event “Rooted in Innovation, United in Independence.”

“I love this theme,” he said. “It really speaks to our overall vision for what we’re trying to accomplish at IPSA. It’s a consistent vision that we’ve had throughout this organization for the past 35 years.” 

Speaking about reading his father’s notes from a 1989 IPSA meeting, Latham said that meeting was in Moline, Illinois. IPSA members met to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the seed industry at that time, which turns out, aren’t that different from today’s challenges.

“The concern back then was how to find ways to keep from being shut out of genetics and early trades in soybeans, and later corn as those traits came into the marketplace,” he said. “At that time, the future was very uncertain as large companies could have easily shut out independents.”

He said he remembers it being a scary time, listening to the talk around the kitchen table. He was listening to his dad and other industry players decide what to do and how to move forward. 

“By uniting together and focusing on the innovation, our independent seed space has grown and prospered since that time,” he said. “Those early trade and genetic innovators of that time knew that free markets and a level playing field was the best recipe for success, and convinced the large trade providers that two or three or even one giant seed company wasn’t the best way forward as it would stifle innovation. That recipe resulted in a win, win, win that benefitted the farmer, benefitted us as seed producers and the scientific innovators at that time.”

Latham said he is convinced that win, win, win scenario would not have been possible without fierce independent minds that worked together and advocated for the independent companies and their customers. He’s also convinced that is how the industry will move forward.

“Without a doubt, we are facing unprecedented challenges going forward,” he said. “But like our forefathers did 35 years ago, we need to rise up and focus more on uniting as independents and finding solutions to all these issues all while focusing on delivering the best innovations to our customers.”

Keynote speaker Phil Jones knows “Exactly What to Say”

Best-selling author Phil Jones addressed the packed room with advice from his best seller “Exactly What to Say, The Magic Words for Influence and Impact.”  He challenged the common thinking that ‘knowledge is power,’ by offering that the power is in implementing knowledge. He captivated the audience with examples of words to use that move people to action, while emphasizing the importance of listening, curiosity, empathy and courage. 

“In an industry that is getting commoditized in a way that we all know it is, the differentiator is not going to be you, your products or your services; it’s your knowledge of the people you’re looking to try and help,” he said. “That’s your fair advantage; that’s your superpower. As the world speeds up with artificial intelligence, you will flex emotional intelligence, knowledge and understanding of the people that you help … Empathy is a superpower that is enabled and unlocked by curiosity and understanding other peoples’ circumstances.”

Jones gave a copy of his book to each attendee and challenged each person to think about their words.

Change your words; change the world,” he said. 

To read more about Jones, visit his website.

What’s Happening Today? 

Today, sponsor exhibits are open 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET. Keep your conference app handy so you don’t miss any of the comprehensive sessions. 

We are especially interested in a few sessions including one on artificial intelligence. EarthOptics CEO Lars Dyrud will be discussing real-world applications for generative A.I. in the seed industry. EarthOptics uses satellite imagery and machine learning to generate carbon maps for agriculture.

The weather has sure been a factor this week. We’ve been below 0 degrees Fahrenheit with wild winter weather across the country causing a lot of issues for IPSA attendees. But beyond these conference conditions, the weather is volatile. In a session called The Era of Weather Volatility, Shawn Hackett will talk about what it means for agriculture and the seed industry. Hackett is an ag commodities expert and publisher of the Hackett Money Flow Agricultural Report.

Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies CEO Sarah Wilbanks will lead a session about certified seed advantages and explain AOSCA’s programs that help clients meet the demands of today’s agricultural marketplace.

Todd Martin hinted about the mysterious HOT SEAT session. IPSA organizers are gathering a small panel during the conference for an “ask me anything” style panel. 

The afternoon general session at 2:30 p.m. ET features David Nurse, an author and motivational speaker who helps professionals master their mindset to help unlock personal roadblocks to success. Learn more about Nurse on his website