Challenges in the Seed Supply Chain

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, 9 minute read

Quick summary: Discover the complexities and solutions within the seed supply chain in our insightful blog. Uncover the challenges faced and explore innovative strategies to overcome them.

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The seed supply chain forms the backbone of agriculture, serving as the primary source of planting material for farmers worldwide. However, this critical component of the agricultural sector faces a myriad of challenges that impede its efficiency and effectiveness. From the initial production and distribution stages to the final planting by farmers, various factors contribute to the complexities within the seed supply chain. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Importance of Seeds in Agriculture 
  • Why does Seed Quality Matter? 
  • Challenges in the Seed Supply Chain 
  • Traceability Solutions for Seed Supply Chain 
  • TraceX Blockchain Solutions 

The Importance of Seeds in Agriculture 

Seeds are an integral part of agriculture, being the effective and efficient means of crop propagation. Seed sustains life and protects it. It is a very important input for agriculture. Quality seeds are important for crop growth which will satisfy the demand for food to feed the growing population.  

Seed technology plays a major role as the potential gained by breeding can be distributed only through seeds. The production, processing, storage, and distribution are the various stages in seed technology. The nucleus seed is multiplied in a generation system as a breeder, foundation, and certified seed. The nucleus seed needs to be genuine and free from impurities and hence is produced strictly under isolation. The breeder seeds are genetically pure and have good germination properties. 

Seed is the fundamental unit for sustainable agriculture and India has a vibrant seed sector which has developed all along with agriculture through the years. Starting with the tradition of preserving seeds from previous crops, farmers have proceeded to develop a robust and integrated seed system. The public research bodies ICAR and CGIAR have contributed immensely with improved seeds for crop diversification.  

Why does Seed Quality Matter? 

In crop production, the seed is the most vital component. It determines crop productivity and improves quality and nutrients. Seed quality is the backbone of the food supply chain; it provides a platform on which the entity runs.   

Seeds are produced by creating a nucleus with the potential to generate breeder seeds, which are then duplicated in vast numbers to form a seed crop. Seed quality must be maintained throughout the journey to achieve the target output under ideal conditions. Illegal seed practices like false labelling, counterfeits, misrepresentation and under-performing seeds have compromised seed quality. 

What is seed quality?  

From plant breeders, producers, processors, traders, and distributors seed quality has to be maintained. Good seed quality determines physical and genetic qualities like purity, viability, vigour, and health.   

Purity: Analyses a seed’s physical characteristics, such as size, shape, and appearance. The absence of external substances such as pests and illness is determined by purity. Seeds that are too tiny or have fungal spots on them are deemed impure. Genetic purity is essential to achieve crops for either resistance or desired quality factors. It can be determined by laboratory tests or more traditional methods like grow-out tests. A seed is considered genetically pure when ​​it possesses all the genetic qualities that the breeder has placed in the variety. 

Viability: A notion in which seeds are examined for signs of life, more specifically, how the seed would develop into a normal seedling (germination) under ideal conditions. As seeds age, their viability decreases, so the temperature, freshness, humidity, and light levels of the places where they are stored must be closely monitored to ensure high longevity and shelf life that will give them their high commercial value.   

Vigour: While viability measures the capacity of the plant embryo within the seed to develop into a seedling, Vigour measures the rate and ability of the plant embryo within the seed to develop into a seedling. It not only determines viability but provides the time and ideal conditions for germination.  

Health: This focuses on seed production methods such as the use of natural and chemical-free fertilizers, seed disease resistance, storage, and transportation.  

Benefits and importance of quality seed  

  • The root system development will be more efficient, which will help absorb nutrients effectively and result in higher yields. 
  • Vital input in crop production. Crop status and outcome depend on the quality of the seed.  
  • Good seed is said to develop and increase yields by 20-25%.  
  • Uniform plant population and uniform maturity provide high productivity with higher market value.  
  • Good seed omits major diseases and insect problems.  
  • Fewer resource inputs of water, fertilizer, and compost are required, following a decrease in cost and enhanced productivity.  

Seed Market 

The global seed market is estimated to account for a value of USD 63 billion in 2021, growing at a CAGR of 6.6% during the period 2021-26 to grow to a value of USD86.8 billion. The demand for food, animal feed, biofuels has triggered the growth of the seed market. The Indian seed industry is the fifth largest seed market in the world, accounting for 4.4% of seed production globally. India is self-sufficient in fruits, vegetables and field crop seeds and is seeing a potential growth in paddy and maize. The active participation of both the public and private sectors has played a crucial role in laying a foundation for this seed industry. 

The increasing need for food to feed the growing population, the requirement from the farmers to produce quality and productive yields with profitability and the sustainable agriculture practices are driving the global seed market. There has also been an increase in R&D activity for innovating new products especially in GM crops and responding to climatic and biofuel challenges, while protecting genetic diversity. The globalization of the seed industry and the strengthening of IPR has brought positive changes in the seed R&D sector. 

Challenges in the Seed market 

The issue of spurious seeds poses a significant challenge to farmers and seed suppliers and affects crop yields and quality. 

Do you know that 50% of the seeds available in the markets are fake? 

  • Need for quality seeds to ensure effective yields and food safety 
  • Short shelf life of seeds especially the certified seeds, as they need to be revalidated annually. 
  • The necessity for right conditions for growth 
  • Lack of integration in the process of demand aggregation. 
  • Lack of digitization in the Seed supply chain with paper-based records 
  • There are several players in the supply chain with a disorganized setup 
  • Prevalence of counterfeit and adulteration 
  • Lack of transparency and visibility in the supply chain 
  • Small and medium companies struggle in the large competitive market 
  • Emergence of grey markets cause reputation and brand losses 
  • The release of GM traits are a health hazard and a challenge to regulatory authorities. 
  • Climatic changes 
  • Storage and Handling 
  • Optimizing cost of production, while ensuring maximum profit. 

Traceability Solutions for the Seed Supply Chain 

Traceability in the seed supply chain is essential for ensuring the quality, safety, and integrity of seeds from production to consumption. By implementing robust traceability systems, seed producers and distributors can track the origin of seeds, monitor their journey through various stages of processing and distribution, and verify their authenticity. This enables stakeholders to respond effectively to quality issues, identify potential contamination or adulteration, and maintain compliance with regulatory requirements. Furthermore, traceability enhances transparency and accountability, fostering trust among consumers and stakeholders. With reliable traceability systems in place, the seed supply chain can better address challenges such as seed fraud, counterfeit products, and the spread of plant diseases, ultimately contributing to the sustainability and resilience of agriculture. 

Capturing the seed to shelf forward journey will bring transparency and visibility into the seed supply chain and assure the farmers of a quality seed for agriculture. 

  • Geo-tagging of farmer’s land and verifying the breeder seed origin.  
  • Recording harvest details, processes followed, chemical and fertilizers details, batch labelling, transfer details, etc.
  • Seed processing and grading details are entered along with quality control steps and related certificates.  
  • Tamper-proof packing with proper labelling, certification stamps, and QR Codes decoding the seed’s journey is printed.  
  • Proper storage and logistics maintain adequate temperature and moisture control throughout its journey until it reaches the farmer.  

Technology has seamlessly integrated the seed value chain and provided a configured system for smooth functioning by providing solutions across the supply chain. 

TraceX Blockchain Solutions 

TraceX blockchain solutions revolutionize traceability in the seed supply chain by leveraging cutting-edge technology to enhance transparency, security, and efficiency. Through the immutable ledger of blockchain, every seed’s journey is meticulously recorded from its origin to the final destination, ensuring a trusted record that cannot be tampered with. With end-to-end traceability facilitated by unique identifiers and smart contracts, stakeholders can access real-time information about seed origins, quality, and handling practices. This transparency fosters trust among stakeholders and allows for more informed decision-making throughout the supply chain. Additionally, TraceX ensures compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards through automated processes, streamlining auditing and certification procedures. By embracing TraceX blockchain solutions, seed producers, distributors, and consumers alike can have confidence in the integrity and safety of seeds, paving the way for a more sustainable and resilient seed industry. 

Discover how PJTSAU leveraged TraceX’s blockchain-powered traceability solutions to track the origin of seeds and their movement to distributors and retailers. 

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Conclusion 

In conclusion, the seed supply chain faces multifaceted challenges ranging from genetic diversity preservation to regulatory compliance and market demand fluctuations. However, with the advent of innovative technologies like blockchain, there is a glimmer of hope for overcoming these hurdles. By embracing solutions that enhance traceability, promote sustainability, and streamline processes, stakeholders in the seed supply chain can navigate these challenges more effectively. It is imperative for industry players to collaborate, innovate, and invest in modern solutions like TraceX to ensure the resilience and integrity of the seed supply chain, thereby safeguarding global food security and agricultural sustainability for generations to come. 

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