Ag-Vision Seeds Ltd.
When Cao Chun Hua came to Canada from the Jilin Province in China, he could barely read, write or speak English, but he had a vision. “In August 1988 on a government-sponsored exchange program, I came to Saskatchewan because it twinned with my home province of Jilin China,” says Hua, now president of Ag-Vision Seeds Ltd. (Ag-Vision). “Back then, trade was small but the company I started working for, Newfield Seeds, was trying to form a Chinese partnership.”
After spending six months in Canada, Hua realized there was a lack of understanding of the seed business in China and he wanted to learn more. He began doing field work for Newfield Seeds and eventually moved into the lab where he passed government exams to become an accredited seed analyst. Hua wanted to understand all aspects of the industry so he split his time between the quality control department, the procurement department and marketing. “During this period I also gained my immigration status,” recalls Hua.
The dream becomes reality
As his reputation and knowledge grew, Hua was approached by other companies but decided he wanted to establish his own business. An ideal opportunity presented itself in 1997 when 12.3 acres on a railway spur at Carrot River, in northeast Saskatchewan, became available.
Ag-Vision was officially on paper by December 1997. “We didn’t start construction of the plant until May 1998,” recounts Hua. By mid-January 1999, Hua’s 10-yearlong vision was a reality and the Ag-Vision plant was up and running. “Ag-Vision was able to progress quickly as I knew people in the industry and they knew what to expect of me,” adds Hua.
After 16 years of growth, Ag-Vision has globally become one of the top producers, processors and marketers of forage and turf grasses, and native species, marketing 12 to 14 million pounds of seeds annually. What began as part of an agricultural exchange program between Saskatchewan and Jilin Province has led to the development of Ag-Vision and Hua’s path to international success.
Fertile ground for growth
A strong relationship with growers throughout western Canada has enabled Ag-Vision to prosper. The company is powered by a loyal experienced team of seed professionals, a modern, high-tech processing facility, an in-house accredited seed lab, sufficient warehousing of more than 105,000 square feet of clean seed floor space and ample rough seed space with a capacity of over 300,000 bushels stored in over 70 hopper seed bins.
Ag-Vision is well situated near generations of experienced forage seed growers offering great diversity in crops. The Carrot River Valley is the heart of production for alfalfa, clovers and many species of grasses. All of this combines for an exceptional environment to deliver the high-quality seed to the industry, paving the way for global recognition.
“Our main market is in the northern U.S. where we do about 40 percent of our business; we do another 30 percent in Canada and 30 percent across Europe and Asia,” details Hua.
Top notch quality control
After 26 years in the industry, Hua says he’s learned having high standards is the key to success. “My philosophy is to compete through service, reputation and quality control,” he continues. “Details make success, and building integrity is about doing what you say you’re going to do. We do what we say we’re going to do and guarantee the quality of seeds shipped in a timely fashion.”
Ag-Vision’s on-site, state-of-the-art lab allows for expert quality control, efficiency and attention to detail. “We’re really focusing on improving our infrastructure,” says Hua. “We have some of the best forage and turf cleaning equipment and automation in the world, including three packaging lines and six forklifts. We use a robotic system for packaging and recently installed a color sorter to improve quality, the first of its kind to be used on forages in Canada. Innovation is one of the keys to our success, and we try to keep on the cutting edge.”
Expanding our Horizons
“We wanted to enter the Alberta market but do it in a way that’s strategic,” Hua says, as he made sure the move was a well-researched, controlled one. “In 2013, we partnered with Dynamic Seeds of Fairview Alberta, a well-established forage and turf company in the Peace River Region, thus affirming Ag-Vision’s presence in this area,” Hua continues. “We’re also looking at expanding abroad, but at present our focus is to build our business and promote our name locally. Whatever the change, we will keep adapting to ensure our business grows to meet the future.”
Hua remains grounded by the obstacles he has overcome to get to where he is today. “When we started we had no money and it’s through loyal customers and great relationships that Ag-Vison has grown,” he shares.
The Chinese expressions on the wall of Ag-Vision remind Hua of the company’s path to the top; “Work to win and keep your focus are quotes that are reflected in the daily operations of the company,” Hua says proudly.
Hua’s vision is now a reality and Ag-Vision Seeds Ltd. will rise to meet the challenges of the future. After all, Hua’s vision of the future is how it all began.