Master of Science in Seed Technology and Business

If you are a professional working in the seed sector, the Master of Science in Seed Technology and Business (STB) has been designed specifically with your needs in mind. The STB program offers an interdisciplinary Master of Science degree that emphasizes the development of superior problem-solving and analytic skills by providing you with current seed science and technology instruction along with essential courses in business management in a rigorous, integrated curriculum. As a program participant, you will gain fresh perspectives on the ways that seed delivers value to users and to society.

The STB program, delivered entirely online, is focused on preparing students for seed-related management roles. The Master of Science (MS) curriculum consists of fifteen courses (36 credits) that are developed and delivered by faculty members from Iowa State University and other U.S. universities, as well as seed industry professionals.

The master’s program is divided into sections on seed science, seed technology, and business. Business courses highlight seed-related issues, while the science and technology courses focus on practical applications. Courses emphasize interactivity with fellow students and faculty; you will be encouraged to share your work experiences with other members of the group. Your online courses will typically consist of a combination of pre-recorded lectures, homework, threaded discussions, short papers, and examinations. Most importantly—you will have the freedom to study when and where your schedule permits.

In addition to assigned coursework, you will complete a creative component exploring a significant research issue of relevance to you. You will work with an Iowa State University graduate faculty committee to develop and refine your creative component project.

To earn your master of science degree in Seed Technology & Business you must complete all required courses, although exceptions are possible if approved by the Program of Study Committee and the STB Director of Graduate Education (DOGE).

For more detailed information, please refer to the STB Student Handbook and the ISU Graduate College Handbook.

Seed Technology and Business Master’s Degree Courses

Strategic Management (2 cr. Hrs.) — Critical analysis of current practice and case studies in strategic management with an emphasis on integrative decision making. Strategy formulation and implementation will be investigated in the context of complex business environments.

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Information Systems (2 cr. Hrs.) — Introduction to a broad variety of information systems (IS) topics, including current and emerging developments in information technology (IT), IT strategy in the context of corporate strategy, and IS planning and development of enterprise architectures. Cases, reading, and discussions highlight the techniques and tactics used by managers to cope with strategic issues within an increasingly technical and data-driven competitive environment.

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Marketing and Logistics (3 cr. Hrs.) — To remain competitive in today’s complex business environment, firms need to coordinate marketing, production, and logistics activities not only within the firm but with outside suppliers and customers in the supply chain. This course integrates the business functions concerned with the marketing and movement of goods along the supply chain with the primary goal of creating value for the ultimate seed customer.

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Organizational Behavior (2 cr. Hrs.) — Will teach understanding human behavior in organizations and the nature of organizations from a managerial perspective. Special emphasis will be placed on how individual differences, such as perceptions, personality, and motivation, influence individual and group behavior in organizations and on how behavior can be influenced by job design, leadership, groups, and the structure of organizations.

The objectives of the course are: understanding the value of science in studying human behavior in organizations; investigating individual differences in order to better understand your own behavior and the behavior of others in organizations; exploration of means to manage individual differences in order to influence behavior in organizations; looking at basic organizational processes and how they affect behavior in organizations; accepting tolerance for ambiguity in situations where best practice has not yet been determined; and understanding why, and how, people are an organization’s greatest asset.

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Accounting and Finance (3 cr. Hrs.) – The primary goal of this course is to provide a survey of the fundamental topics in finance and accounting. The course will also provide the student with the technical knowledge to utilize financial accounting information in support of business decisions.

The accounting portion of the course will cover seed industry financial statements, corporate governance issues, e.g., Sarbanes-Oxley, financial statement analysis, and valuation of seed firms. Students will be required to evaluate financial statements of publicly-traded seed or other agriculture-oriented firms. Additionally, critical issues that confront financial reporting in the industry will be addressed.

The financial portion of the course will show students how to apply the valuation, risk analysis, and other financial analysis techniques used to make and evaluate the major financial decisions facing the firm. These decisions revolve around two questions: 1) Which of many possible investments should the firm undertake (the investment or capital budgeting decision) and 2) How should the firm finance its investments (the financing or capital structure decision). Students will estimate the costs of the different capital components in order to determine the cost of capital for a project. The financial section of the course will also begin by familiarizing students with the basic tools and techniques used in financial management. It will then cover stock and bond valuation and use this process to introduce the process of estimation of the cost of capital. In the cost of capital segment, it will also discuss financing decisions. Finally, students will learn how to make the most important decisions facing the firm — the firm’s investment decisions, capital budgeting. Students will assess and use the primary capital budgeting methods to evaluate proposed investments.

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International Seed Business Practices, Policies, & Regulation (3 Cr. Hrs.) – The course focuses on regulatory environments shaping an organization’s business strategy; the role of certification schemes in facilitation of trade; and national quality regulation including truth in labeling, variety registration, certification (germination, physical purity, genetic identity, genetic purity, and moisture content). It emphasizes the difference between process standards and output tests; process improvement; and product liability. In the area of biosafety regulations, it includes restricted testing, food safety, commercial seed use. Students will be introduced to the ethical basis of the use and regulation of biotechnology.

Students will understand the conventions facilitating international trade: OECD, ISTA, the WTO, Technical Barriers to Trade, Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Agreements; and the conventions restricting trade: International Plant Protection Convention, Convention on Biodiversity and the Cartegena Protocol, CODEX. Students will understand the precautionary principle and its relation to the WTO trade agreements.

Special attention will be given to intellectual property protection: trademarks; industrial secrets and contract law; plant breeders’ rights and UPOV; patent protection for varieties; patent protection for genetic information; patent protection for biotech processes; and the impact of IP protection on variety development, variety testing, and the dissemination of performance information by businesses. The appropriate roles of public and private research and extension will be discussed.

The international business segment will focus on cultural, financial, economic, social, environmental, political, and legal environments shaping an organization’s international business strategy. Topics pertain to entry and repatriation of people, firms, goods, services, and capital.

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Crop Improvement (3 Cr. Hrs) — A study of agriculture from its origins with the domestication of crop plants through basic genetics, demonstrating the challenges and elements of breeding strategies intended to manage gene x environmental interactions. Elements of biotechnology including use of molecular markers, development of genetically modified cultivars, gene mapping, cloning, and gene editing will be covered. Methods to measure the effectiveness of plant breeding (genetic gain) and the impact of improved agronomic practices contributing to increased agricultural productivity will be covered. The course covers the use of intellectual property protection, and the conservation and utilization of exotic genetic resources.

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Seed and Variety, Testing and Technology (2 Cr. Hrs.) – Reference to basic statistical concepts. Concepts from seed science are applied to seed testing. The course provides seed testing procedures; sources of variation in seed testing results; and factors in the selection of vigor testing procedures. Variety evaluation procedures are presented: wide area testing in small plot trials; strip plot trials; and pre-commercial comparisons. Students will understand the function of the agronomist in seed business organizations: providing information for customers, providing information for internal decision making; and the integration of official trials into variety advancement plans.

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Introduction to the Seed Industry (1 Cr. Hr.) This introductory course is a quick overview of the academic program and the seed industry. It describes how the STB program components relate to the seed industry scope; the role of the seed industry in global agriculture and society;  public and private institutions involved in seed research, development, and regulation; quality management for seed products . Current issues including industry consolidation, ethical and economic issues related to biotechnology, and incorporation of digital technology in the seed business will be discussed by course instructors and guest lecturers from the seed industry.

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Quantitative Methods for Seed (2 Cr. Hr.) — Quantitative Methods for analyzing and interpreting agronomic and business information for the seed industry. Principles of experimental design and hypothesis testing, regression, correlation, analysis of variance, and graphical representation of data. Use of spreadsheets and statistical software for manipulating, analyzing and presenting data.

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Seed Conditioning and Storage (2 Cr. Hrs.) – The topics of seed morphology, growth, and physiology are applied to seed harvesting, conditioning, storage, and enhancement. Students learn operational principles of seed equipment; management of quality and quantity of individual machines; principles of seed plant organization; organizing and managing processing teams, and design and the process of balancing variable and fixed cost with quality. Students will learn procedures for choosing between alternative technologies and sizing plants for expected sales.

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Seed Physiology (2 Cr. Hrs) — Brief introduction to plant physiology. Physiological aspects of seed development, maturation, longevity, dormancy, and germination. Links between physiology and seed quality.

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Seed Production (2 Cr. Hrs.) – Introduction to crop production principles for the basic agronomic crops; includes introductory concepts of  plant, soil, tillage, and pest control; the basic growth requirements of plants; the function plants and crop communities; planting, flowering, and maturity dates;  optimum spacing of plants; control of fertilization; and environment and managing factors that influence yield and seed quality. The topics of fertilization,  development, maturation, pathology, and deterioration are applied to seed production. Field management principles are presented: matching production and planting plans to drying and receiving capacity; choosing locations and growers, and managing field production.

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Seed Health Management (2 Cr. Hrs) — Introduction to microorganisms. The course includes a description of the significance of diseases in the major phases of seed production and use. Pathogens considered include fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, and abiotic agents. The emphasis is on control, epidemiology, host-parasite relationships, and seed health testing.

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Quality, Production, and Research Management (3 Cr. Hrs.) This course presents the management and use of quality information, including the process of organizing seed quality data for use by management. The students will learn about the application of total quality management for seed laboratories and seed businesses. They will learn about the production planning process; planning for operating capital constraints; advancement systems; and using the entire organization to anticipate customer needs. The course will describe the components of research management: selection of goals for breeding; the characteristics of a good breeder or station manager; metrics for breeder performance; assignment of territory and projects; and balancing resources for selection and testing. Students will learn the structure of research activities; the nature of interaction among programs; and the process of allocating resources to associated activities: winter nurseries, intellectual property, breeder’s seed, data management, and others. They will study the relationships with other parts of the business; time patterns of annual expenditures; time patterns for annual decision making; and the process of communicating the status of the program to marketing managers.

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Special Topics in Seed Technology and Business (1-3 Cr. Hrs.) Guided instruction and self-study on special topics in Seed Technology and Business. Permission to register for this course is required.

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Creative Component (2-3 Cr. Hrs.) — The creative component projects may include library research or research on business or technical topics. Students will be encouraged to find topics related to their role in the seed industry. Topics will be chosen to reflect current areas of concern in the industry. Students will be expected to analyze all issues related to their topic and justify their findings and conclusions on alternative interpretations of their data. Analysis of many topics will involve, social, environmental, political, and ethical issues related to business choices.

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Admissions Procedures

An online application is required, completed through our admissions office. See our Admissions page for more information.
For information about tuition and fees for this certificate see our Tuition and Fees page.