New breeding station for Hazera Seeds in Holland

On March 6, 2018, the new seed breeding station of Hazera Seeds in Warmenhuizen will be opened. A long period of preparation preceded this. Over the next few months, the new building, which largely consists of greenhouses, research rooms and offices will be built. In total, the new station covers ten hectares; larger than the current location in Tuitjenhorn. "And with the new building we are ready for the future," according to Dr. Rik van Wijk, breeding director.

Anyone who visits the current location on the Delft road in Tuitjenhorn immediately understands that the new building for Hazera on the Machinestraat in Warmenhuizen means a big step forward. "Everything is new with the most advanced technological capabilities for example for climate control in our greenhouses. And we have research rooms with the latest gadgets. A significant step forward, also for our staff," according to Van Wijk.

Dr. Rik van Wijk, breeding director at Hazera Seeds in Warmenhuizen.

Hazera is part of Limagrain, the world's second major player when it comes to the breeding of vegetable seeds. Limagrain is a cooperative owned by around two thousand farmers in France. Hazera has branches in several countries, with over eight hundred employees. In Warmenhuizen, soon a permanent team of about thirty-five people will be working on seed breeding, during the season, another thirty-five colleagues will be joining them. In Warmenhuizen, the company focuses specifically on cabbage and radish seeds. The Dutch headquarters of Hazera is located in Made, where also the cleaning and packaging of seeds take place. The onion division is in Rilland (Zeeland). The international management is also partly located at the second headquarters in Israel. In that sun-drenched land, the breeding activities focus on tomato, pepper, melon and cucumber.

"Think global, act local," says Van Wijk. "That is the philosophy of Hazera. We operate all over the world but are well established in the regions. This means that we have knowledge of what is happening locally when it comes to the cultivation of good vegetables. We have direct contact with growers and so we know what they consider important. In a radius of about twenty kilometers around Warmenhuizen, we still have about 35 hectares of experimental fields."

Rik van Wijk graduated as a breeder in Wageningen. Before he took over the position from Emiel Oost at Hazera, he did PhD research and he worked with several other companies in this sector. He can discuss his work passionately.

Trained eye
Van Wijk: "In our experimental fields we research the properties of, for example, cauliflower. For this the trained eye of the breeder is very important. What makes the cabbage attractive to the consumer? Of course, first of all comes the taste, but the product must look good too. In addition, there are things that are important to the grower. Are the cabbages good and reliable to grow? How about the ease of harvesting, transport and storage qualities? All of these things we analyze. We select the best properties. And we keep getting better at it. We not only look at the outside of the plant, but nowadays we also look inside the plant. It sounds complicated and that's also the case, but the knowledge in this field is increasing very fast. We can continuously improve our understanding on which exterior qualities have to do with the DNA of the plant. The better and faster your insight in this, the better and faster you can develop new breeds."

But that's by far not all. With modern seed breeding a lot more aspects play a role. Breeder van Wijk: "The local climate plays an important role in our research. We want seed that grows cabbages that are resistant to disease, drought, wetness and heat. By increasingly looking deeper into the plant, we get information that is helpful. Without modification. Everything is done based on selection."

Van Wijk will be proud if all this research enables the growers to earn a good income thanks to Hazera seeds: "We deliver our share in the quality, the grower adds his own share. And because we think locally, we can respond well to local problems. For example, in Central Europe, you need to have different features for a product than somewhere else. We take all that into account because our seeds are used all over the world."

The breeding profession requires a lot of patience, knowledge and expertise. "Cabbage seed needs about fifty days to fully ripen. Then we have to harvest it, dry it and deliver it rapidly for the next tests. All this work is done by people. For the time being, it will not change. The computer really has become increasingly important for collecting data. But even much more important is the analysis of that data. Hazera is at the top of research in this field and we are also working on this with other companies. "

With modern technology being indispensable for efficient business operations and a high-quality product, some things will remain as they have always been. Van Wijk: "Yes, that's right. We not only collaborate with farmers and with other companies, we mainly also work together with nature itself. Insects, for example, are of great importance in pollination and hence the production of seeds. We use bees and bumblebees, but also flies. That makes this profession so exciting."

When the doors in Warmenhuizen open officially on March 6, a long period of preparation has at last been completed. In 2004, the idea originated to extend the current complex in Tuitjenhorn. However, the extension permit that was applied for, was not granted. In 2008, Hazera bought five hectares of land for new construction, but also that plan could not be approved by the municipality. In 2012 ten hectares were purchased at the new location in Warmenhuizen and in 2014 the construction of the new building was started in phases.

"We do this with care, not with big steps, because logistics with the plants is a very complex matter and the breeding has to continue," according to Rik van Wijk. "Let one thing be clear: we're very happy with the new place!"

For more information:
Hazera Seeds B.V.
Tel: +31 162 690 900‏
Fax: +31 162 690 970

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