Since 1938, Enza Zaden has been expanding the reach of its seed-breeding innovation to include countries all over the world. Eighty-five years later, the company employs 2000+ people and reinvests 30% of sales into R&D annually. In the US, Mexico, and Canada, Enza Zaden is best known for protected culture tomato, pepper, cucumber, and Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) lettuce, as well as open field lettuce, spinach, and newer programs in seedless watermelon, 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 longstanding mission to play a dynamic role in improving access to healthy food, followed by a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics, and more than a decade of US and global breeding experience, 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 capacity to deliver commercial products at scale is impacted by organizational structure and corporate focus. Enza Zaden’s relatively flat structure enables breeders, sales, marketing, and product development to collaborate and take ownership while gaining continual insight into grower needs and the markets to be served. “We’re both pioneers and innovators in plant breeding and as a team, we consistently focus on the right products for the right conditions, here in North America and around the world,” says Maas.
Some recent North American successes for the company include a seedless watermelon program that in under five years has produced top varieties for all major production regions; a hybrid processing tomato developed in under six years that boasts higher fruit quality, better yield, and better disease resistance than the competition; and two long day red onions that are coming on strong in the North American market. Globally, the North American research stations have also produced such successes as Taila, a yellow onion that is rapidly raising the bar of quality and root disease resistance in Brazil; Red Coach, a red onion that has become one of the most widely cultivated in West Africa; and Iguazu, a red pepper now widely cultivated across Central and South America.
HREZ, Enza Zaden’s game-changing collection of tomato varieties with High Resistance (HR) to Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV), provides another global impact example that hits home for tomato breeders. Along with strict phytosanitary measures, high resistance was identified as a key tool to overcoming the devasting impact of the highly transmissible virus. Less than six years after discovering a resistance gene in their own gene bank, Enza Zaden introduced HREZ varieties in all significant tomato types. The compressed timeline during which Enza Zaden was able to deliver high resistance has enabled the global tomato industry to reset with confidence.
“Enza Zaden provides a rewarding environment where top agriculture professionals can pursue their goals of better products while playing a hands-on role in enhancing the food system. From the EU to Africa, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Southeast Asia, and of course North America, we’re breeding to feed the world, and we believe in doing things right,” said Maas