The big picture – The importance of quality and consistency in supply chains

March 17-18 (part 3)

Todd Davis and Tyler Mark

The third big picture topic from our visits with genetic and microbial suppliers is the role of having a high quality and consistent product in the supply chain.  We received a lot of information from all of our visits and this topic may have been presented in a more subtle way than the focus on genetics and business arrangements. It is still worth a few words to complete the picture from the last two days.

Rizobacter is concerned about quality and consistency throughout their production process. Rizobacter tests the quality of the inputs used to grow the microbials in the laboratory that will eventually become the seed treatment and other products.

Rizobacter also tests the quality of the treated product to ensure the same germination as prior to the treatment. The testing lab is an important part of Rizobacter’s business and their testing even statically validated that the shelf-life of their microbes was much longer than advertised. The ability to trace the product back to the production batch and date is also a way to maintain quality control and recall if a problem is discovered to pull product off of the market.

Dow seed also practices quality control throughout the production process. The seed is grown in a way to preserve the genetic lines and not cross-contaminate (complete with isolation from other corn/soybean fields and set-back from roads). The seed corn is harvested on the cob at 35% moisture and delivered to the plant directly from the field. Care is taken to slowly dry the corn without damaging, cracking, stressing the kernels.

The drying process can take up to 72 hours and much care is used to dry the wet corn slowly to minimize stress cracks and broken kernels which would be unviable seed. Dow has four large dryers, like the one on the left, which use either natural gas or LP. The diversified fuel source reflects the country’s uncertainty of which fuel will be available as urban areas receive priority over industry if there is a shortage.

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Dow has the ability to trace poor quality seed back to the lot bagged and even the field where the corn was produced is available through the seed label. This is important to maintain control over the product after leaving the seed plant.

CIAVT also practices quality control by testing each sample collected. Each bull provides two samples a day twice a week. For example, the class viewed the collection process CIAVT uses for beef and dairy genetics. Testing is performed to view the motility, health, and potency of the sample. The minimum standard is that 60% of the dose must be alive. This sample only had 56% alive and was rejected as a way to ensure a better quality and consistent product.

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