Twelve UC Davis delegates joined ASTA’s Vegetable & Flower Seed Conference 2022
Students and post-doc researchers traveled to sunny San Diego in Southern California to learn and network with industry professionals
- Seed Central led this effort in collaboration with the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), UC Davis Plant Breeding Center, National Association of Plant Breeders, and ASA-CSSA-SSSA Tri-Societies.
- Great opportunity for immersive learning and networking experience for future leaders of the agriculture industry.
- Seed Central events are free of charge and open to interested students and post-doc researchers.
During the last weekend of January 12 UC Davis graduate students and post-doc researchers traveled to sunny San Diego in Southern California to spend 2 days at the 61st ASTA Vegetable & Flower Seed Conference. Seed Central, founded 12 years ago by the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and SeedQuest to facilitate communication and collaboration between the agriculture industry and UC Davis, organized this trip in collaboration with the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), UC Davis Plant Breeding Center, National Association of Plant Breeders, and ASA-CSSA-SSSA Tri-Societies, in order to provide an immersive learning and networking experience for future leaders of the agriculture industry.
Anca Barcu is a Master’s student in Horticulture and Agronomy whose works with Dr. Jennifer Funk focus on Plant Physiology and Drought resistance. She heard about the conference directly through email newsletters from Seed Central which students could sign up to receive the monthly invitations. Many other students found out about this event from an email their graduate group coordinators shared through the listserv.
Students and postdocs started their exciting weekend by hearing inspiring talks and engaging in conversations with the ladies of the seed business during “Women in Seed Luncheon”. One by one, with assistance from Kaitlin Crawford, ASTA manager who helped coordinate this engagement, research posters were mounted on the easels, filling up the hall in front of the “Trading Room”, where professionals across the industry initiate collaborations. Research posters are one way scientists communicate their findings with colleagues in their field and with the general public.
Anca highly appreciated the opportunity to present her poster at the conference. “This contributed to my grad school experience by offering more practice in presenting my poster, adapting the information to diverse audiences, learning more about how to interact with the industry, get more conference experience and build relationships, both within the group of graduate students as well as outside it.”
At nightfall, the rooftop patio of the conference venue was filled with food and fruitful conversations. Andrew LaVigne, President & CEO of ASTA, warmly welcomed the delegates and emphasized the importance of collaborations with the future generations of our agriculture industry at the Welcome Reception.
“It makes me consider learning more about plant breeding as I found that having knowledge from plant breeding will be beneficial for my career” – Nico shared his newly found love in Plant Breeding.
Nico Linga, another student delegate, said he enjoyed “[the] opportunity to talk to the seed industry leaders and make new connections” during this conference the most. He hopes to continue working on minimizing food loss by increasing the shelf life of produces or designing more efficient supply chain, following his completion of a Master’s degree in Horticulture and Agronomy.
Like its catchy hashtag “#JustGrowIt” says, this conference provides great opportunities for early career researchers to grow their network and learn from industry professionals. Delegates from UC Davis participated in sessions and workshops ranging from international and local policy to innovative technology featuring future farming practices. Following local health orders for COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements, conference attendees were able to engage in a safe environment. In addition, students may also join this conference virtually for free of charge.
“With the pandemic, I haven't really met many people from Davis. So I truly enjoyed meeting the other UC Davis graduate students at this event. Everyone was supportive and kind.” – Karla Cornellio who studies nitrogen fertilizer management in California rice cropping systems during her Master’s program in Horticulture and Agronomy added.
All delegates who attended the conference in person also got to interact with the seed industry sponsors, Bayer, Sakata, and Syngenta who generously sponsored their transportation to the conference, while ASTA covered room and board.
“What I enjoyed the most was having lunch with the sponsors. I learned SO MUCH.” In addition to tips for interviews, resume preparation and skill development for the industry, Karla recalled her key takeaways from the interactions: big corporations value collaboration, not competition -- Being a team player and helping one another is what will get you far.
Balancing time in and outside the classroom can be challenging, especially during the pandemic. Yet, immersive experiences like internships and attending conferences have proven useful not only to future careers but also as enrichments to graduate school experience. Students get to practice how to communicate effectively with a wide range of audiences. Communication skills are highly valued across all fields, academia, industry and government sectors.
“I was desperate to hear what people in the industry actually do”. Karla shared her inspiration and highly encouraged students to consider participating in events like this conference, even though it might not be directly related to their field of study.
“I am not a breeding or genetics person, I do not work with flowers or vegetables but I still applied because I wanted to meet with professionals in the field. As someone coming from a non-academic, non-STEM world, the people in my science "network" include a few grad students in my cohort, the people in my lab, my advisor, and maybe a professor or two. I don't really have a long-standing social history or friend group immersed in the STEM world.” This conference allowed Karla to finally learn and get the experience she needed.
Every year in January Seed Central arranges for students and postdoc researchers to attend the ASTA Conference. But, students can already enjoy tasty food and great conversations without the need to travel outside of the Sacramento valley. Seed Central offers monthly networking events on the 2nd Thursday of the month on the UC Davis campus and a series of professional development opportunities, currently online and soon to resume in-person: iConnect networking with industry; iVisit company visits, and professional development workshops.
All these events and opportunities are free of charge and open to interested undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doc researchers, regardless of major or area of research.
They are key to developing one’s own network, not only for those who aspire to work in industry. Anyone looking for internship or employment in the seed, ag and food industry is encouraged to visit the job board at www.seedquest.com/jobs.php
“Always thoroughly read the emails from your graduate group coordinator!” – Nico emphasized.
Early career scientists who joined the conference include
- Postdoctoral researcher: Bullo Mamo, Gilad Gabay, Maria Alejandra Alvarez, Shu Yu
- Plant Biology Graduate Student: Livingstone Naganga, Matthew Davis
- Horticulture and Agronomy Graduate Student: Mohd Rezaul “Rana” Islam, Paul Kasemsap, Priscilla Glenn