The faces behind our food: Back to the seed

Diving into the contents on our plate, I wonder how many of us consider the efforts that go into achieving our food. Of course, we think of the time spent preparing and cooking our meal, but how many of us really take into account the work put into growing the raw ingredients themselves? Or even the work put into developing the seeds that produce the ingredients? Suffice to say not many, but after all, how much do we really know about the journey of our food?

When we pick up a product in the supermarket we like to scour the item for key labels or persuasive claims (‘locally sourced’ label + ‘farmer’s truck’ symbol = good to go!) and with a swift toss to our shopping cart, we’ve made a relatively quick decision and the item will shortly join the family of contents in our fridge. And it’s as simple as that, for most of us at least.

Perhaps many of us consider there to be no need to delve into the production of our food through fear of getting tangled in a web of information, or perhaps we trust that ‘locally grown in Texas’ is simply enough information and it can all end there. Either way, it is important to consider that there are real people working around the clock to satisfy our ever-growing appetites, and now more than ever, we should be grateful for their work.

Challenges amid COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has had devasting consequences across the globe and our food system in particular has taken a hard hit. Border closures and travel restrictions have caused major disruptions to food supply chains – add to the mix extreme panic buying and you have a recipe for a global food disaster.  

With supermarket shelves thoroughly ransacked leading to severe food shortages, food companies and suppliers have been forced to ramp up activities to keep up with intensified demand. As such, key workers across the supply chain have made special efforts to ensure an adequate and frequent food supply is restored.

It all starts with the seed

Whilst there are hundreds of individuals to consider in a single food supply chain, we will be casting light on some of the workers at the very heart of it all. 

So where does it all begin? ‘Farm to table’ usually springs to mind when we think of the journey of our food, but if we want to start at the very beginning, then it all starts with the seed. With this, we turn to some of workers at Equinom – a seed-breeding technology company focused on delivering sustainable, nutritious, non-GMO food ingredients.

The faces behind our food

Freda Rohrer, Breeding Coordinator and Sr. Research Technician

Freda Rohrer joined Equinom earlier this year as a breeding coordinator and Sr. research technician. Freda is responsible for overseeing the company’s Smarter Soybean program in North America which aims to bring superior soybean varieties to market. “My typical work week varies depending on the season. During spring, I’m primarily focused on preparing seeds for planting and towards summer, my time is spent travelling to yield trial locations to take field notes” says Freda.

Based in Indiana, Freda oversees around 20 R&D trials spanning across six states as well as several other projects. These trials will help the company to determine which soybean lines can improve crop yield as part of the first stage of development towards more productive and resilient soybean varieties.

Dale Stone, Seed Production Manager

Also working on this special species of legume is Dale Stone, Seed Production Manager at Equinom. Dale establishes QA processes for the company’s Smarter Soybean lines. A typical work week for Dale involves a range of tasks “I can be working on anything from crop inspections, visiting third party research companies, talking to seed processors and developing QA processes for Smarter Soybean”. Dale oversees two major soybean seed production locations in the US.

Dale grew up working on a small farm which led him to pursue a career in the seed sector. Following several positions in the seed business, Dale remains in the field and is excited to be continuing his journey with Equinom. In Dales view, “Seeds are the source of our food, and breeding seeds for better crop performance and enhanced nutrition will play a crucial part in ensuring a sustainable food future”.

Joe Guzman, Regional Agronomist

Joe Guzman, Regional Agronomist at Equinom, covers a very different but equally exciting crop – sesame. Joe works with grain handlers to advance the production of Smarter Sesame – a specially developed variety with enhanced nutritional profiles and optimal farming output. With this, Joe oversees around 50 commercial Smarter Sesame fields.

Covering locations across western Oklahoma and north Texas, Joe supports farmers who plant, grow, and harvest Smarter Sesame. “I visit many fields to ensure we give the grower the best solutions to optimize their acre. I oversee the crops being planted, ensuring a good emergence stand, and assist with harvesting when the time comes” explains Joe. In addition, Joe also monitors 15 R&D trial sites intended the continued development of Smarter Sesame.

Rodrigo Franklin, Agronomist

Also advancing America’s favorite bun topping is Rodrigo Franklin, Equinom’s additional Agronomist focused on Smarter Sesame. Rodrigo assists farmers throughout the entire growing process, from checking the seeds on the ground, all the way up to the harvest. Covering regions across south Texas, Rodrigo oversees around 20,000 acres of Smarter Sesame.

For Rodrigo, a career in agronomy was evident. “When I was two years old, I moved with my family to a farm where my father grew sorghum and corn. Naturally, I followed in footsteps and pursued a career as an agronomist” says Rodrigo. “I enjoy being out in the field, working with crops, managing different sites and most importantly, helping farmers get the most out of their crop”

A new perspective

We’ve shared the stories, and faces, of four people playing important roles in shaping the food that we eat. Whilst their work is crucial towards the development of sustainable food solutions to ensure a resilient and secure food future, they are a part of a huge network of key contributors across the globe – all driving our food system.

So the next time you’re shopping at the grocery store, dining in a restaurant or preparing a meal, consider the men and women working hard to keep our plates full, today, tomorrow and for generations to come.

Written by Shani Collins, Marketing Communications Manager, Equinom.