Dutch seedsman Simon Groot received today the prestigious Mansholt Business Award for Sustainable Entrepreneurship in recognition of his contribution to the vegetable farming sector in the tropics over the last three decades.

Simon Groot is the founder of East-West Seed, a 33-year old company that has played an important role in the development and improvement of tropical vegetable varieties in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Simon Groot, 81, of Enkhuizen, the Netherlands is this year's recipient of the Mansholt Business Award for Sustainable Entrepreneurship, an award given by Wageningen University to entrepreneurs who have made a positive impact on society while creating business value.

“Our world is dominated by small scale farmers. What we do is add value to their labor and land. We have worked hard to create better genetics in tropical vegetable crops, using plant breeding technologies that have been successful for centuries in the West where I came from. After we started that, we realized that better crop varieties also needed better farming systems. Therefore we built local teams of extension workers to extend productivity-enhancing knowledge to farmers in the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and recently we have started in Myanmar,” said Simon Groot.

Groot started the company with an economic vision to improve the income and livelihood of smallholder farmers, and to contribute to increased availability and quality of vegetables in the tropics. The combination of European seed technology and expertise, tropical know-how and local experience and entrepreneurship led to the first market-oriented vegetable breeding company in Southeast Asia, East-West Seed.

Moreover, the company bridged the gap in farmer extension and technology transfer, responding to the changing economic and social conditions in agriculture-based developing countries. So, in addition to developing better varieties suited to the tropics, East-West Seed took a leadership role in tropical vegetable farming extension with a strong farmer orientation and emphasis on sustainability.

Simon Groot receives the award and cheque from Ir. J.K.Mak, director of Deerns and President of Wageningen University Fund

The award

The recipients of the Mansholt Business Award are selected on the basis of the OECD guidelines on sustainable entrepreneurship, with focus on the value chain, corporate social responsibility, human rights, and the environment.

This award is bestowed by Wageningen University to entrepreneurs who have made a positive impact on society while creating business value. Wageningen University is recognized as the best agricultural research university in the world.

Simon Groot is only the second recipient of the award, succeeding IT and precision agriculture entrepreneur Jan Hadders who received the award in 2012. The award comes with a 25,000 euro prize.