Indiana Crop Improvement Association

115 years at work in the lab, field and farm for members
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

For more than a century, the Indiana Crop Improvement Association (ICIA) has been setting the industry standard in seed certification, seed quality testing, genetic testing and cutting-edge research. Based in Lafayette, Indiana, ICIA is a nonprofit, self-supporting agency, which exists to deliver unbiased, highly-demanded services to member companies across the seed, grain, food and associated industries.

ICIA supports and serves more than 200 member companies throughout Indiana, including: Wyckoff Hybrids, Total Seed Production, Hubner Industries, AgVenture D & M and Heartland Restoration Services.

“I’m really proud of our association; we’re the oldest of our kind in the United States – we were established in January 1900,” says Alan Galbreth, CEO of ICIA, who has been with the organization for more than 39 years.

On-campus origins

ICIA was originally launched by a group of farmers who attended Purdue University. “They gathered together in the hope to form an association that would help farmers produce better crops,” recounts Galbreth. “ICIA started as a farmer driven organization and they went around the state, talking about seed selection, soil fertility and related topics. Back then, seed was whatever you could save from your best crop; farmers were just learning about quality production.”

Initially, ICIA had lots of help from Purdue to get off the ground. “The group was housed on campus until 1968; at that time, we had outgrown the lab facilities on campus so we moved off campus to our own set of buildings across town,” recalls Galbreth. “ICIA made another move in 1999. Now we’re on the other side of the county, further away from the university, but we’re still closely affiliated with Purdue.”

Galbreth started in ICIA’s seed testing laboratory as a technician right out of college. “I moved up to managing the seed testing lab and then became assistant manager of ICIA overall and eventually on to CEO,” he says.

Assuring quality

“There are 44 agencies similar to ours in the U.S., each with their own seed company memberships divided by state,” continues Galbreth. “Our official function is the certification of seeds, which includes a series of steps to assure a farmer that he’s getting the right variety/hybrid he expects. There are many agencies throughout the country that do the same thing, but the difference with ICIA is we have an in-house seed testing laboratory.”

Seed companies from all corners of the country can submit seed samples to ICIA for quality testing. ICIA offers a range of lab services including germination, seed vigor and purity testing, trait confirmation, varietal purity and identification and low-level presence.

As an ISO-certified organization, ICIA regulates seed certification throughout Indiana. “In our early years – through the ‘30s and ‘40s – we were primarily an educational organization,” says Galbreth. “Today we officially certify seed and regulate certifications, but we’ve also moved to additional lab services and field inspection services.”

Offering these services takes a skilled team.  ICIA has a qualified and experienced staff of 15 full-time employees, 18 part-time lab technicians and some 80 to 100 field inspectors. “We currently take on native seed and flower testing, as well as new tests for drought, insect and herbicide tolerant seeds,” says Galbreth. “A lot of seed companies rely on ICIA to verify that the seed actually carries these traits. We can also determine varietal purity for hybrid seed corn.”

ICIA stands out in regard to exceptional member support and service. “Our membership benefits from our high standards of quality, accuracy and consistency that comes with our attention to detail, knowledge and experience in agriculture,” says Galbreth.

Member events

In the heart of the Corn Belt, seed production is well underway through spring and summer 2015, keeping ICIA’s lab busy. Meanwhile, the association is also making plans for a three-day membership appreciation and open house event.

“This event is a chance for us to show our members that we appreciate their business and the relationships we have built with them and also to offer current and potential members the opportunity to get to know us and our operation better,” said Liz Pestow, marketing director of ICIA, via press release.

The event, hosted from Aug. 12 through Aug. 14, 2015, includes a golf scramble, farm tours and open house tours of ICIA facilities, a trait testing seminar, a seed labeling and sampling presentation and a member dinner reception.

As ICIA celebrates years past, the association looks to the future with a vision of expanding field services, seed laboratory services, genetic identification capabilities and targeted research activities. Overall, the goal is to assure quality and allow members to have access to the best products possible. After a century of evolution, quality assurance and producer support remains Indiana Crop Improvement Association’s mission.