SeedAssure

Seed was grown in Kenya… Congratulations, Eliud!

SeedAssure
SeedAssure

Strengthening seed trade system for increased seed trade in the EAC and COMESA region.

SeedAssure

Digital seed quality assurance and certification platform

What is SeedAssure?

SeedAssure a complete software scheme of agile (bespoke but also regulatory compliant) field-based data collection applications that sit on an interoperable platform that can incorporate existing client programs for data and document exchange between multiple agencies all along the value chain, securely and in real-time. The applications on the platform are well-tested—over 20M successful field checks to date—and enable our customers to achieve very high levels of safety and compliance (e.g., ultralow pesticide residue levels). The systems have provided many African companies real-time decision-making capability while ensuring continuous improvement end to end in their supply chains. These systems are commodity agnostic, and can be applied to almost any agricultural commodity, and work at national, regional, and international levels and are compliant to standards, with public regulatory agencies also as clients, so very much scale-able.

All these tools enable (and require) companies to demonstrate their products meet regulatory, safety, and labelling standards for both consumption and trade. This leap in quality assurance and traceability boosts investor confidence among both local companies, who have been averse to investing in new products for fear of the regions’ notorious regulatory and trade entanglements; as well as global investors looking to procure and trade in Africa, but were wary of quality assurance. Making these investments safer with quality assurance and traceability that can be proven, traced, and accessed at any point along the value chain (or border) could very well catapult investment in Africa’s agriculture sector, boosting economic growth and food security across the region.

What’s the problem?

Access to healthy seed is recognised as critical for food security, yet a major bottleneck to a vibrant seed industry lies within the certification process. In the early 1990s, structural adjustment programs (SAPs) privatized many parastatal seed companies and opened up the seed sector to private investment in many countries, spurring a proliferation of commercial seed companies and creating a $42B global industry that has increased the choice of crops and varieties available to farmers through the formal commercial sector.

If fully deployed, the SeedAssure digital certification system will galvanize trade and investment in African seed sectors and catapult access to improved seed products to farmers across the region.

Before reaching the farmer, new varieties must go through multiple levels of production, each requiring a quality inspection, with the risk of failure (and losses) at each stage. Add to this additional trade compliance regulations if moving across borders, making certified seed production a significant investment for companies as well as farmers. Despite the SAP’s, seed quality control and certification has remained firmly in the public domain, whose capacity has not kept pace with the sector’s expansion: most African regulatory agencies are overwhelmed with the expanded private sector requests, and lack the personnel, softwares and tools to handle the such a workload, which spans large distances and is still largely paper-based, creating a slow and costly process vulnerable to inaccuracies. As a result, there is a backlog of seed inspections, misdiagnoses, inadequate technical support for quality issues, and responses to urgent national issues like fake seed and disease outbreaks is severely limited. These difficulties not only compromise quality, but create significant risk for commercial producers, dis-incentivizing new product adoption, variety turnover, and regional trade.

While setting of standards and oversight of seed certification must inherently be in the public domain, several countries have supported the privatization of inspection services to delegate the high workload. Maintaining a single, high-level professional standard and also a single platform to manage all the data to be generated by these new corps of Inspectors would be ideal for public and private sectors. Regionally, efforts such as COMESA’s adoption of the Seed Trade Harmonization Regulations to implement a Seed Certification System, which includes accreditation of laboratories; licensing and registration of seed inspectors, samplers and analysts (COMESA, 2014), but these policies need to be actualized with tools and training. Despite these positive steps, it is recognized that a wider and more cohesive effort is needed across the African seed sector to put in place systems that both enhance the capacity of the private sector to produce quality seed and the public sector to support quality seed production at a pace and scale that can match the scope of this problem.

Vision: More seed produced by fewer growers of better quality at lower cost with fewer resources.

  • Solution Concept

Provision of seed inspection services by licensed third-party providers using digital data input software—SeedAssure—with Certification and oversight from regulatory agencies. SeedAssure is a digital data platform that is easy-to-use, off-the-shelf and readily integrated into multiple systems. The software employs standardized, up-to-date quality measures and disease monitoring modules. The platform is not a ‘reinvention of the wheel’, but indeed supports existing ‘tried and tested’ methodology used in inspection for years—it simply sets out to make the process faster, more efficient, more effective and more sustainable for all partners in the supply chain.

  • How it Works:

Beginning with sales of the device, SeedAssure requires inspectors to register online and subscribe to the application (inspector registration can also be linked with NPPO Inspector licensing and tracking, providing another axillary benefit in Inspector corps management.) Field data is uploaded in real-time to a central cloud-based platform, and inspection records are geo-referenced and tagged to production site identifiers, with reports transmitted to stakeholders on a ‘Need’ and ‘Action’ basis. Seed companies then subscribe to an online account to access the database and their records (plus software updates and support), paying for inspection services as needed. Inspection records then are transmitted to producers and, when ready, to regulatory agencies for certification and product licensing. NPPO’s then also subscribe to the platform and train their staff on its use.

The SeedAssure platform is tailored to each country’s Seed Act requirements and Certification process, and also aligned with Regional Trade protocols, and establishes a 360-degree view of production or processing data for clients. It can also be readily integrated into other business softwares, so clients don’t have to lose previous IT investments or discontinue softwares they currently use.

Who can use SeedAssure?

Client/ User Access and Usage
National Seed Regulatory Agencies Full access to headline data from each data category of the Inspection process, including:  grower registration, inspector registration, field registration, crop registration to be able to ensure that certification steps through inspection are being scored and validated in a consistent manner. Real-time data on pest and disease occurrence as reported by Inspectors will allow quicker responses; trend data on prevalence will also be generated once these modules are in widespread use.
Seed Companies/ Crop Managers Full visibility of the inspection process at all stages and all data captured for their own crops only, allowing both quality control and monitoring of progress to certification. By design, SeedAssure is also a performance monitoring tool, able to track the location, actions, frequency and quality of seed inspector work in real-time. Submission of assessments can also be linked to digital payments to inspectors (e.g. via Mpesa), expediting time to certification for clients and incentivizing efficiency for inspectors.
Regional Markets Getting NPPO’s, Border agents, Seed companies and other key stakeholders all on the same digital platform (security checks and delegated access in place) can catapult new products to market and regional trade like never before. If fully deployed, the platform can make new variety investment a smart investment, get improved seed to more farmers faster, and narrow the space for fake seed and other corruption outcomes in the seed industry. It will also allow quantifying market share, seed movement and improved seed penetration much easier.
Seed Inspection Officer Access to the records they generate only and on a confidentiality bases with production clients. They will be able to both collect data and send records to both NPPOs and producers direct from the field, eliminating paper document transfer, allowing for more inspections (and income). They will be able to manage their inspection schedules, receive software updates, send invoices and receive online payments.
Seed Product Buyers Evidence / assurance of certification and production performance for forecasting sales. Agro-dealers, NGO’s serving farmers, and aggregated buyers can use this service.
Research and Development Orgs Real-time, national and regional aggregated data on product market trends and disease/ pest patterns can be provided to inform research and development strategies and agendas based on recent trends and farmer needs.

Key features: SeedAssure has proven (over 20M checks to date) remote field data collection capability; security; bespoke design; cost-effective; inter-operable: can be integrated quickly and effectively into client businesses systems and accommodate other softwares and applications. The stable and inter-operable platform is designed to be responsive to the industry many years from today.

  • NFC-enabled seed inspector management and performance.
  • Phyto-sanitary compliance prep capability
  • Pesticide Data Audit Capability
  • Media- and Device-Enabled
  • Escalation Notifications and Corrective Action functions
  • Business Intelligence Enabled
  • Military-grade IV System Security

SeedAssure provides end-to-end quality assurance and tracking tools:

Quality Assurance Tools Management Tools
Field Assessments at all production stages per National Seed Act requirements Inspector and Inspection load dashboard management
Additional QA modules per design Effective traceability for cross-border trade
Pesticide Databases Distributor Arrival Check and Sales Confirmation
Disease Identification and Response modules Single payment window for certification services
GPS Lot mapping In-Process Batch Control Labelling, Assessments
Lot performance history records Processing Facility Arrival/ Dispatch Assessments

Benefits

Clearing the Backlog A single digital system coupled with standard training and licensing would professionalize and expand the sector, filling the certification demand gap designed to grow with the seed sector and reduce the number of rejections and disputes.
Traceability The adoption of a common IT platform would ensure full traceability of all seed lots, measuring seed performance from the producer to processors to distribution to the farmer. Records would also creating accurate product data for regulators, researchers and investors, complementing Seed Harmonization and VIN efforts as well.
Incentivize Investment in New Products  A fast and transparent inspection process would drastically reduce time, cost and risk of new seed products, spurring variety turnover and improved product access for farmers.
Enhanced Quality Assurance Standardized digital inspections coupled with technical references (variety keys, pests data sheets, etc.) would make access to scientific data in real-time and responses to quality issues in early stages for producer processors. The design is a single point of data entry via a device pre-programmed to get the best out of the inspection visit. Digital records would also afford historical data of seed and lots to inspectors for better assessments over time.
Early Warning System Geo-referenced and near real-time field reports of quality issues, including pest and disease detection, would provide timely notification to producers and authorities of issues like FAW or MLN, allowing for rapid response measures to be deployed and outbreaks to be contained while creating disease trend data for both regulators and research agencies.
Expediting Trade Single-window systems allow trade documents and transport data to be lodged instantly into a system to fulfill all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements. This system could also fit into tiered regional export license programs as well, accelerating trade and investment in quality seed. Using tried and true processes makes compliance easier, and reduces liability when required regulatory minimums are not met.
Seed Security, Food Security Data on the area (ha) under seed production and quantities of seed produced along with seed health histories can be extracted (under a managed access system) to create reports allowing policy makers to make informed decisions to ensure regional seed—and food—security.
Possible Data Trends Pest Events – Disease Events – Production Timing data – General inspection performance & Cost – Yield and Quality – Grower Matrix, Processor Matrix and ultimately distribution matrix.

A major added-value from SeedAssure would be the generation of aggregated seed sector data: numbers on seed variety production volumes; pathogen incidence; national and cross-border seed movement can provide valuable market metrics. To date, no agency has this data at any useful scale or accuracy level: SeedAssure could provide such data per market, country and region to  regulators, researchers and the commercial sector to be used in forecasting, production planning, disaster response, and research agendas in near-real time.

Why it Matters

Ultimately, SeedAssure could catalyze a professional seed inspector corps that eases the burden on public agencies; provides top-level, timely and streamlined services to the burgeoning seed sector; and generate real-time data for the entire value chain, catapulting trade in the region to benefit governments, private companies, and most importantly, African farmers.

Strategic Information

If fully deployed, potential sector metrics generated include:

  • Volume, diversity of certified seed on the market, including type (hybrid, OPV)
  • Volume purchase of certified seed
  • Incidence of counterfeit seed
  • Rates of seed certification rejections at the field stage
  • Rates of other non-compliance issues, regulated pest detection, other key frequencies
  • Disputes on non-compliance rejections

Confidentiality. Data security is our top priority. Permission-controlled data access and reporting is a key feature of all SeedAssure products and function, for both public and private clients.

Who we Are?

Cellsoft Technologies™, based in Kenya, develops and distributes software applications and platforms for the African agricultural sector. Muddyboots Software® (MBS) is a software house that specializes in Supply Chain Management Applications, and has grown to serve over 80 countries in the last 20 years; CellSoft has been the exclusive distributor of Muddy Boots Software systems in Africa for more than 13 years. The combined capability of both businesses is extensive: MBS already has a suite of five major management platforms (www.muddyboots.com), and is developing Pesticide database management apps; Quality Control solutions; expanded Farm Management and Supplier Approval apps. Cellsoft’s portfolio includes a variety of software products and services, including a range of farm-based and supply chain and processor management softwares designed to ensure end to end quality control and tracking, and is currently  expanding to factory and produce management tools for the Agri Processing market. Together, these businesses have been supplying—and servicing—innovative digital solutions to the Agribusiness sector in East and southern Africa for over a decade.