“A career in agriculture is a noble career. We are offered the opportunity to feed our nation, most importantly feeding the hungry”. These are the wise words of Viwe Ratiba (45) a seed analyst and quality testing manager at Corteva Agriscience.
She knows this field like the back of her hand and has over 20 years experience. As quality testing manager for the Africa Middle East region her job is to ensure the company provides quality repeatable, reliable and accurate results to their regional stakeholders.
“This means that one has to always wear the customer hat at all times, to ensure that we provide seed of a high quality in the bag to our customers to enable the farmers to feed the ever increasing population in the region,” she says.
Young South Africans should be passionate about being a seed testing analyst first before they get the fancy job title, she believes. If you enjoy high school subjects like biology, physical science, agricultural sciences, mathematics or English, then perhaps this career will suit you.
Simply follow the advice below to find out more about getting involved. Over the next few weeks we will feature many more careers to choose from in the agri sector on Food for Mzansi and 19 radio stations all over the country.
Okay, now it’s over to Viwe Ratiba, a seed analyst and quality testing manager at Corteva Agriscience:
1Could you sum up your job for us? As the quality testing manager for the Africa Middle East region my responsibility is to ensure that we provide quality testing results that are repeatable, reliable and accurate to our stakeholders in the region. This means that one has to always wear the customer hat at all times. This ensures that we provide high quality seed in the bag to our customers, thus enabling the farmers to feed the ever-increasing population in the region.
2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail? I ensure systems and processes in the laboratory are correctly implemented and maintained (LIMS and ISO systems, ETS, Quality Testing Manual), that laboratory seed testing protocols are correctly executed and we meet our stakeholder service level agreement (turnaround time, lab productivity). I am responsible for the alignment of our seed testing and system process to Corteva global best practise. I ensure proficiency and training of the seed analysts to align to each country’s regulatory requirements, Corteva global requirements and the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA).
I ensure that we maintain our ISTA accreditation standard. As an ISTA accredited lab we are able to benchmark our systems, processes and seed analyst proficiency to those laboratories worldwide that are ISTA accredited. As well as our in-country registration regulatory requirements. I see that quality assurance is correctly implemented and executed, including equipment calibrations and substratum checks (pH measurement, water retention and particle size). I ensure implementation of audit risk assessments for continuous improvement of our processes and systems and act as the key contact for the regional testing laboratory and our stakeholders.
What qualification do you need for this career? To be a trainee seed analyst at entry level one needs a minimum of a grade 12 with biology, mathematics and physical science. Ideally you should have a degree or diploma in science or agricultural sciences. Trainee seed analysts will undergo a short course in seed science offered by the University of Pretoria. You cover seed physiology and the pass mark is 70%. Then a demonstration course in practical analysis at the official seed testing laboratory with the department of agriculture, fisheries and foresty, in the following crops: agronomic crops, horticultural crops or grasses. The examination’s pass mark is 75%.
Once you have passed the seed physiology course and the practical analysis examination you are a qualified seed analyst. However it takes a number of years to be competent and proficient as a seed analyst in your specific field of seed testing.
Seed Testing includes:
- seed germination (germination at optimum favourable temp);
- physical purity (physical appearance of a seed and pure seed content);
- moisture testing – (checking moisture content of the seed); and
- vigour testing (germination check under stressful conditions)
4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job? One should be passionate about being a seed testing analyst first before your “fancy job title”. You need attention to detail for daily seed or seedling quality testing evaluations. You need a good eye to visually spot any deviations from the norm of the seed sample given for testing. Integrity – doing the right thing even when no one is watching – and accuracy for repeatable results are key to the quality of the seed to provide to our customers. You must enjoy the laboratory environment.
Be curious and always willing to learn more about seed testing or the seed industry to broaden your knowledge and competency. Be innovative. Be willing to explore new science and technology in seed testing. Complacency and status quo thinking is toxic. Be prepared to have your boundaries stretched. Be a team player – working as teams makes us champions in driving our goals.
5What subjects do I need to become a seed analyst? Biology, physical science, agricultural sciences, mathematics and English
6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in? A career in agriculture is a noble career because we are offered the opportunity to feed our nation, most importantly feeding the hungry.
7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments? Leading the centralised laboratory team to operational excellence and innovation. The laboratory was formed in 2017 as the regional laboratory servicing the seed quality testing requirements for the Africa Middle East region. Amidst the challenges we faced to merge the processes and systems of our legacy companies, the laboratory team was able to achieve excellence by implementing and aligning our systems and processes to the Corteva global laboratory best practises.
In 2019 we were awarded ISTA accreditation after a three-year-long preparation and hard work. This has put the laboratory on the map worldwide as part of the ISTA accredited laboratories. What does ISTA accreditation mean? We are able to issue Orange International Certificates (OIC) which is recognised worldwide to facilitate the exporting of the seed. This provides confidence to our stakeholders and customers that the seed quality test results we provide is repeatable, reliable and accurate. There is an improved level of competency and proficiency of the seed analysts who are able to compete at a global scale.
8What do you do when you’re not at work? I am a book worm, I enjoy reading. I devour teachings on spiritual journey, biographies and fiction. I enjoy hiking and absolutely enjoy the inner peace that I find in nature during these hikes. I would love to go back to running especially the races where you always push yourself to do your best. It’s great for improving your self motivation and inner strength. I enjoy bonding and spending quality time with my daughter, family and friends.
9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story here on AgriSETA Learner Connect? Your dream should be driven by your passion. A qualification, an education is important. This is only the first step towards your career. But what is more important is to ensure that you empower yourself with skills and knowledge in your field of interest. Allowing yourself to be mentored to learn more about your field and being able to push those boundaries. It will help you to execute and enjoy what you are passionate about in your career more effectively and efficiently. I always say to my team that in your career, you should be a seed analyst first before being defined by the title of your job, this will make you one of the rare gems in seed testing.
10Where can I study to become a seed analyst? The university of Pretoria offers the Seed Science short course. Government’s official seed testing station offers internships for graduates that would like to study seed testing and this enables them to become qualified seed analysts.
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