5 years ago

The Partnership no. 7

  • Text
  • Enza
  • Organic
  • Zaden
  • Partnership
  • Tomatoes
  • Varieties
  • Consumers
  • Breeding
  • Products
  • Cultivation

With 50,000 production

With 50,000 production acres, the Californian based Earthbound Farms is the world’s largest certified organic vegetable grower. Renaud: “We work collaboratively on product development and sell them seeds of arugula, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower and culinary herbs such as parsley and dill. Earthbound is motivated to use 100% organic seed of the highest quality, most innovative cultivars.” system with genetically modified foods. The lack of environmental protection in conventional agricultural systems has perpetuated an industrialized food system that does not protect the environment, nor the consumer.” Fresh fruit and vegetables have been the top selling category of organically grown food since the organic food industry started retailing products over three decades ago, and they are still outselling other food categories. The US makes up 44 percent of the global organic food sales and the market is still growing. Unfortunately, this growth also has a downside; farmland in the US is not being converted to organic at the pace needed to meet the growing demand for organic. This constrains growth for both individual farms and the organic sector overall. Renaud: “So the proportion of supply comes more and more from outside the US. Farmers in over one hundred countries, mainly Mexico, are now producing food for the US organic market.” An 'Onionbelievable' team Onions can make you cry, including breeding them. In many ways onion is not the easiest of crops to work with and provides plenty of challenges in every stage of developing high quality varieties for our customers. From breeding to seed production, phytopathology, biotechnology, sales, marketing and logistics, onion can be a difficult ‘beast’ to handle. And with a two year breeding cycle, sometimes the goals can seem a long way off. So, it is good to keep a strong sense of humour! Column Product We have a saying in the onion team that probably applies to breeding all crops, and in fact, also to life itself. It captures the ‘risk taking’ nature of our industry. When we think we are close to success after many long years of breeding for a certain market, we use the old saying "We can see the light at the end of the tunnel". However, in the onion team we also add a sentence: "Let’s hope it is not the headlight of a train racing towards us!” So, though we like to have a bit of fun and a ‘light’ approach to the job of breeding onions, we also realise the vital importance of looking ahead. With such a long term crop, the sooner we detect a market trend the sooner we can start to change our breeding direction, and hopefully hit the new target before our opposition does. A bit like the Captain of the Titanic avoiding an iceberg: if you detect the danger too late, you don't have time to turn and avoid it. We need to keep our eyes open and to the horizon. Organic food marketing Most organic sales take place through conventional and natural food supermarkets and chains. But there are two striking differences between conventional and organic food marketing. First of all, organic marketing is value driven with a strong focus on sustainability and health. Storytelling – which allows consumers to ‘know their farmer’ and provide confirmation that ‘their support of the local food system’ is an important contribution – is key to organic produce marketing. Renaud: “There are many companies now that are fully integrated and have their own brand: they grow, pack and market their own products to the end consumer and/or retail market. They tell their own unique story including who grows for them, where the product comes from, and any nutritional benefits.” Since Enza Zaden purchased the small breeding programme of Yates in October 2003, the programme has undergone rapid growth. The philosophy of investment in R&D was a ‘breath of fresh air’ to the Yates breeders. That commitment has seen the programme blossom from one breeder and one seed production guy with a few casuals in Narromine to a strong international network with locations in New Zealand, North and South America, South Africa and Europe. Another difference is the use of direct markets. Only about 1.6 percent of the US fresh produce sales are through direct sales. However, with the growing awareness of environmental issues, the demand for locally grown organic product has heightened. This has resulted in a steady growth of farmers’ markets – where the demand for organic products is strong – in the last two decades to over 8,144 in 2013. A relatively new thing for us – new in ‘onion years’ anyway – is breeding ‘Long Day’ onions. These onion types are grown in the latitudes of the world where the daylength in summer gets very long, such as North America and Europe. Our Australasian programme mostly breeds Short to Intermediate Daylength types, yet a huge percentage of the world uses Long Day ones. In 2008 we were given the ‘green light’ to look for a Long Day breeding site, and in 2010 we initiated the fulltime programme in Tarquinia, Italy. Since then our EU team in conjunction with the ‘sister teams’ in New Zealand, USA and Australia have made rapid progress in breeding for the major Long Day markets of the world. Future The organic consumer market in the US, already the largest in the world, has been growing at over ten percent per year. Renaud: “And there is no indication that this is slowing down. Thanks to strong partnerships with US producers, and more and more producers abroad, we take on the challenge to continue to meet this increasing demand for organic. And supply them with the broadest assortment of 100% certified organic seed available in the marketplace.” In other words, our highest priority and focus is and always will be on ‘Teamwork’. Without a strong team even the best products won't fly. Lewis Lydon, Crop Breeding Manager Onion 20 | The Partnership The Partnership | 21

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