What will you do?

We face major challenges. What will you do?

By 2050, the world population will have increased by more than two billion people. In order to keep producing enough healthy vegetables for everyone, we need higher yields that require less acreage, energy, fresh water, and minerals to grow.

The big question is: who wants to take on such an enormous challenge?

Plant breeders and researchers would never walk away from such a challenge. They develop new vegetable and flower varieties that produce higher yields, can be kept for longer, and are resistant to diseases. The Netherlands is at the forefront of developing better plant varieties. Our seeds are distributed around the world. Good-quality vegetable seed is what every farmer considers to be the key investment for a profitable harvest.

But good seeds alone are not enough. Knowledge about optimum cultivation methods is just as valuable. This is why crop consultants from seed companies travel the world over to share their knowledge with local growers.

You now know a bit about what we do in Seed Valley. The next question is: what will you do? Do you think that important issues can be resolved without your help? Or will you be making a significant contribution to society and our future?

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An aubergine is an aubergine. Or at least that’s what it seems. They are black with a purple tinge and elongated in shape. However, those who visit the local markets while travelling in Asia will notice that the aubergines there are small, round, and white.

Aubergine is eaten around the world but there are considerable differences in their size and appearance. Every country – and sometimes even a particular region within a country – applies different criteria to this vegetable. It is difficult to respond to all these requirements. The variety that a grower chooses to buy is determined not just by the desired appearance, but also by local soil type, cultivation methods, and predominant plant diseases.

To be a successful seller of vegetable seeds, the varieties that you offer must be better than all the rest. Good sellers are the eyes and ears of the market. They are able to identify the latest trends and know what the market is waiting for.

The question is: what will you do? Are you flexible enough to keep on tackling new challenges?

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Whether too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry, extreme weather conditions can cause stress in plants. And we mean that quite literally: their growth slows down and they become less productive – or they simply die. A changing climate has led to extreme weather conditions around the world, resulting in the loss of crops.

The problem is clear. But how do we solve it?

What Silicon Valley means for high tech is what Seed Valley means for the development of plant varieties and seed technology. You’ll find the most innovative green fingers in the Netherlands. This is where the best flowers and vegetables are developed: improved varieties that are resistant to drought, able to grow in saline soils, or which are suitable for modern cultivation methods.

You now know something about what we do in Seed Valley. The question is: what will you do? Are you willing to get your teeth into one of the big issues of modern times? Because regardless of the many changes happening in the world today, one thing remains the same: we still need to eat.

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A cucumber seed may look inconspicuous on the outside, but on the inside it is full of technical ingenuity. In their long journey towards finding a successful variety, modern seed companies make use of high-tech tools.

We use state-of-the-art analysis equipment to systematically study the DNA of plants and identify desirable characteristics. We do this on a large scale, for large quantities of plants, and at a fast pace. Breeding companies collect millions of data points each year.

It’s fantastic that such quantities of data are available. However, the key is to be able to draw useful conclusions from such a growing mountain of data that enable plant breeders to make progress. Bioinformatics specialists and data analysts are essential for this task: they develop the algorithms that recognize relevant genetic patterns in large amounts of DNA data. Developments are moving at breakneck speed. The search for the perfect plant has become a real data enigma.

You now know what we do in the seed sector. The question is: what will you do? Will you walk down the same trodden paths in future? Or are you willing to find your own way in an innovative sector that is constantly pushing its own frontiers?

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When you were a child, you were told that eating spinach makes you strong. However, the spinach plant itself is very vulnerable, especially for pathogenic fungi. These fungi mutate at a rapid pace and break through the plant’s protective mechanisms. A spinach variety that is resistant one year may succumb just one season later. It’s a race against the clock.

We must ensure that we are smarter and faster than the fungi. Plant breeders are constantly searching all four corners of the world for wild spinach that is resistant to fungi. In the laboratory, researchers unravel the genetic structure of the plant so that we can track the presence of resistance genes when the wild spinach is cross-bred with our tasty variety.

And this work never stops. Every type of vegetable or flower, every type of climate, and every type of soil calls for a customized solution. A variety that thrives in the Netherlands will not do so well in the hot and humid climate of Thailand.

You now know the types of challenges we face in plant breeding. What will you do? Do you believe it? Or are you smart and strong enough to tackle future food issues head on?

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