Since 1938, Enza Zaden has expanded the scope of its innovation in seed breeding to include countries around the world. Eighty-five years later, the company employs over 2,000 people and reinvests 30% of sales annually into research and development. In the United States, Mexico and Canada, Enza Zaden is best known for the protected cultivation of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce from controlled environment agriculture (CEA), as well as open field lettuce, spinach and more recent programs in watermelon seedless, onions and more.
For North America, local research stations in San Juan Bautista, CA, Myakka City, FL, and Culiacan, MX ensure regionally adapted genetics. Luis Maas is Senior Station/R&D Manager for Enza Zaden USA. Building on a long-standing mission to play a dynamic role in improving access to healthy foods, followed by a doctorate in plant breeding and plant genetics, and over a decade of breeding experience in the United States and around the world, Maas is responsible for the operational and strategic direction of the North American Research Organization.
Maas explains that although breeding technologies and resources are fairly consistent across seed companies, the ability to deliver commercial products at scale is affected by organizational structure and corporate purpose. Enza Zaden’s relatively flat structure allows farmers, sales, marketing and product development to collaborate and take responsibility, while gaining a continuous view of grower needs and the markets to be served. We are both pioneers and innovators in plant breeding and, as a team, we constantly focus on the right products for the right conditions, here in North America and around the world, says Maas.
Some recent successes in North America for the company include a seedless watermelon program that in less than five years has produced the best varieties for all major growing regions; a hybrid processing tomato developed in less than six years that boasts higher fruit quality, better yield and better disease resistance than the competition; and two long-day red onions that are gaining traction in the North American market. Globally, North American research stations have also produced such hits as Taila, a yellow onion that is rapidly raising the bar for root quality and disease resistance in Brazil; Red Coach, a red onion that has become one of the most widely grown in West Africa; and Iguazu, a red pepper now grown extensively throughout Central and South America.
HREZ, Enza Zadens’ groundbreaking collection of tomato varieties with high resistance (HR) to Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV), provides another example of a global impact affecting tomato growers. Along with stringent phytosanitary measures, high resistance has been identified as a key tool to overcome the devastating impact of the highly transmissible virus. Less than six years after discovering a resistance gene in its gene bank, Enza Zaden has introduced HREZ varieties into all significant tomato types. The short timeframe in which Enza Zaden was able to deliver high resistance has allowed the global tomato industry to recover with confidence.
Enza Zaden provides a rewarding environment where top agricultural professionals can pursue their goals of better produce while playing a practical role in improving the food system. From the EU to Africa, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, India and Southeast Asia and of course North America, they have mushroomed to feed the world and we believe in doing things right, said Maas
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