Christina is a 29-year-old agologist who lives in Winnipeg, MB. She attended the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) in Truro, Nova Scotia, completing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a major in Plant Science/Horticulture. Her fourth-year project was on canola and establishing the ideal bay width for production of hybrid canola.
After graduation, Christina headed to Western Canada where the majority of Canadian canola production occurs. She got a job with a seed company based out of Lethbridge, Alberta where she worked as a Breeder Seed Agronomist. Five years later, she is still working for the same company, but her role has changed significantly. She is now the Quality Assurance Coordinator for the organization and is responsible for the quality of seed they produce and sell. She also manages the company’s intellectual property portfolio and is involved in the import and export of seed from a number of countries around the world.
Stephanie: What made you decide to become an agrologist? How did you become an agrologist?
Christina: In my grade 12 year of high school, the pressure was on to make a decision about what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to go to university and complete my Bachelor of Science but I was unsure of what field I wanted to major in. I began looking into a variety of science-based careers and found myself intrigued with horticulture.
At that time garden centers were creeping up everywhere, the popularity of golf was soaring, particularly among the younger generations, and homeowners were spending lots of money on weed control for their lawns. I realized that the demand for skilled people in the horticulture sector was likely going to increase and that if I wanted a job once I graduated from University, this would be a good career choice. I then started the process of identifying what facilities offered this kind of training in the region and that was when I discovered the NSAC.
The B.Sc. (Ag) program at NSAC is a 4-year program and involves a fourth-year project or an undergraduate thesis.
Upon graduation, we were encouraged to join our provincial Institute of Agrologists. At present, I am a member of the Manitoba Institute of Agrologists (MIA).
Stephanie: What does an agrologist do, generally? What do you do in your day-to-day work?
Christina: An agrologist gives advice with respect to the production, processing quality and/or marketing of agricultural products, crops or livestock. An agrologist may work in a number of different agriculture-related fields. Agrologists may work in research and development, sales and marketing, product/market development, quality assurance, aquaculture, natural resources, and/or production/operations. They may be teachers, salespeople, managers or loan officers.
In my job I ensure that the seed that we produce meets both internal and external quality requirements for sale into the specified country. I ensure that the proper testing has been completed and I analyze various pieces of data in order to determine the fate of a particular seed lot. I ensure that seed that we import or export meets regulatory requirements for entry into the country of destination. I ensure that all of our varieties are registered for sale, that we have protected the genetics/germplasm of our material through plant breeder rights. Also, I ensure that seed is certified for sale and that it is packaged and labeled according to the packaging and labeling laws of Canada. In addition, I ensure that we are in compliance with our external license agreements.
I am in constant contact with various regulatory bodies including CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), CSI (Canadian Seed Institute), CSGA (Canadian Seed Growers Association, and IPIC (Intellectual Property Institute of Canada) to ensure that all of these activities meet or exceed the specified regulatory requirements.
Stephanie: What do you like about your job?
Christina: Technology is constantly changing. I have to be constantly abreast of all the latest issues in the industry, new technologies heading to market, new methods of testing, new regulatory requirements, etc. to ensure that the seed we produce continues to meet the minimum standards for sale.
I like that my job is diverse and that it is on the cutting edge.
Stephanie: What is your least favorite part of the job?
Christina: Working within a very restrictive environment. Everything I do is regulated by some sort of agency, so the level of scrutiny that we function under can become overwhelming at times.
I also believe that this sort of scrutiny can smother creativity and/or result in increased time to get potentially new and beneficial products to the market and in the hands of thousands of consumers around the world.
Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming an agrologist?
Christina: Get as much experience as you can while still in school. Choose summer jobs that are relevant to your discipline. Become a member of the student section of your local agrologist association.
Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be an agrologist? What kind of education did you get?
Christina: There are a number of different types of agrologist designations available, and each one has its own specific education requirements. Usually you need a degree or diploma in agriculture to become an agrologist. However, you can become a student member of your local institute of agrologists branch while enrolled in an agriculture-related program.
Individuals with a degree in an agriculture-related discipline receive a P.Ag or Professional Agrologist designation. Individuals holding a diploma in an agriculture-related disciple receive a P.Tech or a Technical Agrologist designation.
Individuals that do not hold a degree or diploma in agriculture but who actively work in the agriculture field may apply to become an associate member of the organization. In order to maintain your Agrologist status, there are various courses and training that you must.
I have a B.Sc. (Ag) in plant science/horticulture and am a member of the Manitoba Institute of Agologists
Stephanie: What is your favorite plant or animal, and why?
Christina: I don't know that I have a favorite plant or animal. I consider myself a lover of both. From a personal perspective I would have to say the dog. From a professional perspective I would simply say that I prefer horticultural crops/plants to agronomic plants for the mere fact that the majority of horticultural crops (turf grass, trees, shrubs, etc.) continue to grow and improve over time. Watching this transition is rather fascinating. If you remember the tree that was once smaller than you that now seems to reach the sky, don’t you get a warm fuzzy feeling? As opposed to the crop of wheat that you planted and harvested last year and will plant and harvest this year and the next and the next.
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