*ETA 1/19/2017 – I was recently promoted to the new role of Production Manager at a corn site in Iowa. I will be adding a new post about that soon!
My role at Monsanto is as a Production Associate at a soybean production facility. This is an entry-level management position with responsibilities that include overseeing our in-house quality lab, performing quality tests, managing data, field inspecting, and product stewardship. That’s a lot of fancy words for quality assurance. It’s basically my job to make sure that what we are putting into our packages adheres to Monsanto’s quality standards.
How do we “produce” soybeans?
As a production facility, my site grows, conditions (cleans), and packages soybeans. Yes, the GMO kind. No, syringes and lab coats are not involved. Our soybeans are produced in fields just like the non-GMO and organic kinds. In fact, my site alone is responsible for about 56,000 acres of soybean production that is spread out all across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Our fields will produce enough seed to plant close to 2 million acres the following crop year.
We can’t grow all that seed without help and that’s where farmers come in! Our site works closely with over 100 farmers that plant some of their fields specifically for seed production. This means that instead of taking the seeds to elevators for use in food, feed, and other products, we pay them for it and it’s brought to our facility.
Once the seeds are at our facility, they are conditioned and packaged. “Conditioning” is the process by which we remove unwanted debris, excessively large/small seeds, weed seeds, and damaged seeds. This is important because farmers need a clean, uniform product to run through their planters. The equipment used to do this is large and expensive which is one of the reasons farmers may prefer to buy new seed each year rather than saving their own.
(Special thanks to Tom Rosengren for letting me snap this picture of his shiny new rig!)
Another of my responsibilities is helping our farmers monitor their fields to ensure that we’ll have good product to harvest. Several field inspections are performed throughout the growing season where we take “stand counts” to help estimate yields, monitor for excessive weeds, make sure there is adequate spacing from neighboring fields, and that the field is “pure” with no off-types that could taint the variety.
Samples of each batch we package are collected throughout the packaging process and that’s where I come in! These seeds come into our quality lab where they are evaluated to make sure they reach Monsanto’s quality standards. We look at things such as appearance, seed size, seed coat durability, germination rates, and purity of the variety (we have over 20 different varieties.)
We use the quality data we collect to make sure our packages are labeled correctly and to analyze trends that may indicate our conditioning equipment isn’t running to full efficiency. It’s my job to make sure all of this happens according to AOSA procedures and that issues are handled correctly.
Once the beans have been conditioned, packaged, and fully vetted by our lab, they are ready for farmers! Most of our seed is distributed to seed dealers who sell to our farmer customers. These beans will be grown “commercially” and harvested to be used in animal feed and other products. However, some of that seed is reserved for our farmer growers who will plant it to produce seed for us and the cycle starts all over again!
Is there anything else you you’d like to know? Comment and ask me below!