Rijk Zwaan, a Dutch vegetable seed company, introduces new varieties and transfers knowledge about cultivation and marketing to help growers create extra value. (Photo provided to China Daily)
As the agricultural sector in China undergoes major modernization, it is necessary not only to produce enough food for future populations, but also to increase the quality of the produce, said executives of Dutch vegetable breeding company Rijk Zwaan.
The company is willing to play a role in both aspects, they said.
The Chinese government is guiding the massive process of upgrading China's traditional agriculture into a modern and efficient cultivation industry. This process involves hundreds of millions of farmers and millions of hectares of land.
Seeds play an important part in this transition, as breeding companies are able to continuously introduce plant varieties with ever-better combinations of desired characteristics, whether improved flavor, shelf life or appearance, or better traits from a grower's perspective, according to the company.
A higher crop yield per square meter and new and improved disease resistance enables agricultural land to be utilized more efficiently and reduce the use of crop protection agents needed.
Focus on R&D
As the No 5 seller in the global vegetable seed market, this Dutch family-owned company is strongly focused on research and development and invests 30 percent of its annual revenue in R&D.
To develop vegetable varieties that are aligned with varying consumer preferences, climates and growing conditions around the world, Rijk Zwaan has breeding facilities in all major climate zones.
The company makes extensive use of genetic knowledge provided by the newest DNA sequencing technologies to design targeted breeding programs.
Rijk Zwaan only develops non-genetically modified organism varieties, as the company does not see the need for genetically modified vegetable varieties.
The company has more than 1,000 varieties in its assortment across 25 different vegetable crops, which are sold in more than 100 countries through 27 local sales subsidiaries and numerous distributors.
Rijk Zwaan started its first activities in China in 1998, and the company now employs 140 people at its subsidiary in Qingdao, Shangdong province, and works with about 30 demonstration stations across China.
In cooperation with many local partners and governments, Chinese institutions, other vegetable seed companies and partners throughout the entire vegetable chain, Rijk Zwaan introduces new varieties and transfers knowledge about cultivation and marketing to help growers create extra value.
Furthermore, Rijk Zwaan invites hundreds of Chinese agriculture professionals to the Netherlands each year so they can see modern agriculture techniques for themselves and put their new knowledge to good use upon their return to China.
Rijk Zwaan's efforts bring with them a considerable social responsibility because the world's population is expanding at a rapid pace and a growing number of people must be fed using a finite number of natural resources, according to the company.
In China, too, the rapidly growing middle class and rising interest in health and food safety are increasing the demand for high-quality, reliable and varied food products.
Making a difference
For these reasons, Rijk Zwaan is continually investing in the Chinese vegetable sector.
Small improvements in varieties or growing techniques can achieve big results in terms of quality and profit, according to the company.
Rijk Zwaan recently launched a new round of investments aimed at establishing a state-of-the-art agricultural research and training center in China.
"By developing varieties specifically for the different regions in China, and by strengthening our partnerships at a local level, we believe we can really make a difference in this huge market," said Rijk Zwaan's Managing Director Marco van Leeuwen. "Together with our partners, we want to make a significant contribution to a healthy future."