Member Profiles

 



Member Profile May 2016: Susan Di Tomaso

Susan Di Tomaso, Associate Director for Seed Biotechnology Center, answers a few questions on her experience within the seed industry.

Q: What is your role at the Seed Biotechnology Center (SBC)?

A: I get to work with a great team to offer programs and science-based information to the seed and seed-related industries. We coordinate classes, workshops and conferences. We also facilitate access to the great information available at UC Davis. I get to work closely with our stakeholders and our team to facilitate these activities. 

Q: What makes the SBC unique in the seed industry?
A: There used to be more seed centers in the United States, but now there are very few. We are in a position to provide research that is important to the industry as well as educational opportunities to keep our business healthy and strong. The SBC is located in one of the hearts of production which allows us to be next to a hub of activity.

Q: What project(s) are you/your center working on? Any recent innovations?
A: We are in the middle of organizing two large, international conferences; SolGenomics: From Advances to Applications (September 12-16, 2016) at UC Davis and the International Society for Seed Science conference (September 10-15, 2017) in Monterey, CA. Simultaneously, our researchers are excited about all of their activities. The new tools now available to them are allowing science to move very quickly. In addition, our course portfolio has grown, as have our Seed Central activities.

Q: Have any new team members recently joined your organization? If so, whom?
A: Yes, we’ve added two new program representatives, Rebeca Madrigal and Julie Tillman as well as the director of the Collaboration for Plant Pathogen Strain Identification, Phyllis Himmel.

Q: How did you get started in the seed industry?
A: In 11th grade I told my piano teacher, Joan Ball, that I was going to have to quit my lessons and find work to help me with college. She stopped for a minute and thought and then said, “I think Bob (Ball) is looking for help in the office. Shortly thereafter I started working for the California Crop Improvement Association and have never left this great industry.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry?
A: Try to become as familiar with as many aspects as possible. There is so much opportunity to learn and grow in this business while working with fantastic people.

Q: Is your center active in community involvement? If so how?
A: Yes. Our Seed Central events bring many from the community, including a Woodland council member who is a regular. We work with regional economic development agencies, junior colleges, our own campus community banks and county agencies, to name a few.


Q: Is there anything else you’d like CSA members to know about you or your center?
A: We are committed to being available to strengthen the seed sector and agriculture in general. We are grateful to all that have partnered with us and look forward to you contacting us if we can be of service.



Member Profile April 2016: Dennis Choate

Dennis Choate, Field Production Manager for Syngenta, answers a few questions on his experience within the seed industry. 

Q: What is your role at Syngenta?
A: I am the Field Production Manager for Small Seeded Vegetables in North America

Q: What makes Syngenta unique in the seed industry?
A: Syngenta participates in many parts of the Seed Industry.  Vegetables, Flowers, Field crops.  And they do it on a Global level.  Additionally, though our Crop protection activities, we offer many solutions for our Customers, as well as competitors with Seed treatments.

Q: What project(s) are you/your company working on?
A: I would say our biggest project right now is staying focused on our business and customers while we transition through the Chem China acquisition.

Q: Have any new team members recently joined your organization?  
A: With a large organization we are always welcoming new team members.  But the most recent member to our team in Vegetable seed Production, is Gordon Pezzini in our Salinas office. 

Q: How did you get started in the seed industry?
A: I started in the Seed Industry with a summer Internship while going to college at Chico State.  I was responsible for  our Plant Growth regulator spray program in the Sacramento Valley in cucurbit seed production.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry?
A: The Seed Industry is a very dynamic industry, and new innovations and changes occur regularly. One of the things I have enjoyed in this Industry is that there are constant new challenges and it is never boring, and many times it take Industry cooperation to solve issues. My advice would be to welcome change, and become involved in Industry groups.There are lots of great people to get to know.

Q: Is your company active in community involvement? If so how?
A: Yes, we have various activities at our local and corporate sites, but community involvement is very much a part of who we are at Syngenta. 

Q: Is there anything else you’d like CSA members to know about you or your company?
A: I could not have had the enjoyable career in the Seed Industry without my VERY supportive wife, Shawn who has kept our lives balanced and held down the home front while I have traveled the world.
 




Kelly Keithly receiving the ASTA Honorary Lifetime Member award.

Member Profile March 2016: Kelly Keithly


Kelly Keithly, Owner of Keithly-Williams Seeds, answers a few questions on his experience within the seed industry.

Q: What is your role at Keithly-Williams Seeds?
A: My role at Keithly-Williams Seeds is President/CEO/Mentor

Q: What makes Keithly-Williams Seeds unique in the seed industry?
A: Keithly-Williams Seeds Celebrates 36 years this year. We don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best.

Q: What project(s) are you/your company working on?
A: No specific projects, just trying to improve on what we are doing by continually getting better.

Q: What’s new in seed treatments, any innovations?
A: There are a number of fairly new seed treatments that serve different purposes for the grower, and we are using them as we are convinced of     their usefulness. We are interested in treatments that will deal with seed borne diseases as those become a bigger issue all the time.

Q: Have any new members recently joined your team? If so, whom?
A: N/A

Q: How did you get started in the seed industry?
A: I started in the seed industry on April Fools Day 1970 after graduating from the University of Arizona.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry?
A: Be patient, work hard, listen more than you talk, treat others like you want to be treated.

Q: Is your company active in community involvement? If so how?
A: We  try to be involved at all our locations by helping young people and adults that are less fortunate and need a hand to take a step up. We support many organizations that perform these types of services in my different channels. We also participate in events that support the communities that we work and live in. Kids sports, county fairs, etc.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like CSA members to know about you or your company?
A: Family is important now, not later when you “have time”. My wife Cheryl and I have been married going on  51 years.  She has been the biggest reason for my success. Even above that, the Lord has had His hand on Keithly-Williams Seeds and there is where the only answer is for the company’s success over the years.
 




 

Member Profile February 2016: Bob Munger

Bob Munger, North American Commercial Manager at Hazera Seeds Inc, answers a few questions on his experience with the seed industry.

Q: What is your role at Hazera Seeds Inc.?

A: I am the North American Commercial Manager.

Q: What makes Hazera unique in the seed industry?
A: Hazera Seeds Inc. is a joint Israeli and Dutch company.

Q: What project(s) are you/your company working on? Any innovations?
A: Diseases resistance, water intake, and flavor are some of the projects we are currently working on.

Q: Have any new members recently joined your team? If so, whom?  
A: The newest member to join our team is Jose Gonzalez PD.

Q: How did you get started in the seed industry?
A: I got my start in the industry when my wife's uncle needed a salesman.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry? 
A: My advice would be to go slow and learn the business in the first 3-4 years, it takes a lifetime to truly know it. And with growers trust is everything. 

Q:Is your company active in community involvement? If so how?

A: No, we are really too small in structure.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like CSA members to know about you or your company? 
A: We are always looking for good people to join our team.
 



Photo (left to right): Bobby Alex Garcia, Eugenia Tang, Dale Krolikowski, Bobby Garcia, Stacy Hasegawa, Charlie Cain

Member Profile January 2016: Dale Krolikowski

Dale Krolikowski, Head of Operations and Research at Germains Seed Technology answers a few questions on his experience with Germains Seed Technology and the seed industry.

Q: What is your role at Germains Seed Technology? 
A: I am the Head of Operations and Research, this means I oversee the daily manufacturing outputs, Quality Control, Quality Assurance, in addition to the research and development of new seed technologies.

Q: What makes Germains unique in the seed industry? 
A: As a seed Technology provider we are very independent, we do not own any genetics or do any breeding, but focus solely on how we can influence the development of a seedling.  Our efforts are geared to improving early stand uniformity and healthy clean seed that benefit the grower.

Q: What project(s) are you/your company working on?  
A: My team in California is focused on vegetable seed technology. Our top priority project right now is the development of a seed treatment, that is 100% NOP compliant, having efficacy against the early dampening off diseases encountered by baby leaf spinach growers.   We currently have nineteen projects at various stages of our R&D development pipeline running in our laboratory.  We focus on seed technology in priming, enhanced pellets, seed health and disinfection as well as material science like film coating polymers.

Q: What’s new in seed treatments, any innovations? 
A: Within Germains, the newest innovations in seed treatments are all proprietary.  I’ll just say that we have very outside the box thinkers in the R&D department who continually challenge the existing and past paradigms of what seed technology used to be,  I am constantly proud of their innovations.  The newest innovations are investigating how biological treatments work either with conventional chemistries or other seed technologies.   The objective is to combine up various technology that increases value to the grower.

Q: Have any new members recently joined your team? If so, whom?
A: The Germains California office recently hired two new members into the commercial team to support the advancements in new product development.  Mr. Charlie Cain, our Yuma , North East and Canada sales representative and Mr. Ernst Van Eeghen our Head of Sale and Marketing for Horticulture.

Q: How did you get started in the seed industry?
A: I guess it was serendipity really.  I worked in pharmaceutical new product research and development and bulk API manufacturing for 18 years before coming to Germains to start the Research Team here in Gilroy. 

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry?
A: My advice to someone coming into the seed industry is to attend conferences like CSA, Cal Leafy Greens, and ASTA.  Get a broad view of all the different parts of the seed business, from seed production, breeding, seed technology, commercial production and selling.  They each have different and very rewarding career opportunities.

Q: Is your company active in community involvement? If so how?  
A: We try to not let our the produce in our field trials go to waste and work with organizations like Second Harvest when we can to give away the veggies we produce.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like CSA members to know about you or your company?
A: Germains has been in the seed business for over 150 years. Our longevity is rooted in providing value through innovation  to the end user.  We have a strong team of individuals world wide that take lots of pride in the jobs they do everyday knowing that we are contributing to keeping our food supply safe and affordable. 



The Rijk Zwaan team at PMA.

Member Profile December 2015: Rick Falconer

Rick Falconer, Managing Director at Rijk Zwaan, answers a few questions on his experience with Rijk Zwaan and the seed industry.

Q: What is your role at Rijk Zwaan?
A: Managing Director - Focus outdoor crops

Q: What makes Rijk Zwaan unique in the seed industry? 
A: We are a family/employee owned seed company with a strong focus on research.

Q: What project(s) are you/your company working on? Any recent innovations?
A: Last month we announced the introduction of KNOX lettuce. This is a new development in lettuce breeding where varieties with this trait have longer shelf lives due to delayed pinking. Often when lettuce is cut as a whole head or a chopped product the cut surface of the tissue turns pink. Varieties with this trait will have an extended shelf life and ultimately a better experience for the consumer.

Q: Have any new team members recently joined your organization? If so, whom?
A: Yes, Rijk Zwaan USA is expanding our team.  We are adding two positions in the eastern part of the US as well as adding people in administration and research in the west.

Q: How did you get started in the seed industry? 
A: Well, I guess it all really started when I was 9 years old.  My family was in the processing tomato business in the San Joaquin Valley.  One day I was riding with my dad and he took me to a field we were planting.  Dad had several small envelopes of seed (Peto Seed) and poured one envelope into my hand to plant. "Here plant these seeds in a row but be very careful, these seeds are worth a buck each".  My eyes got big and as typical 9 year old, I followed with lots of questions. "Why are they so expensive?"  He said, "They're hybrid seeds."  Of course, I followed with "What's a hybrid?"  He explained these are special seeds that grow stronger and produce more fruit, I was hooked and from that point on had strong interest in seeds. Today I realize the significance of that time, it was a time of change in the vegetable seed industry as hybrid varieties were being introduced and developed and to a young farm kid the word hybrid had a futuristic and magic meaning that sparked interest.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry? 
A: Get involved -- and give back to the industry.  You'll be surprised at what you learn, who you meet and how easy it really is by just showing up.

Q: Is your company active in community involvement? If so how?  
A: We try our best, but the schedule is always demanding.  In general we try to support and get involved in agricultural programs like CSA’s bi-annual seed tours, 4H, FFA, Farm Day, and First the Seed, which are a few examples of organizations we like to support.



Member Profile November 2015: Mac Keely

Mac Keely, General Manager at Blue River Technology and Chair of the Industry Communications & Youth Activities Committee, answers a few questions on his experience with Blue River Technology and the seed industry. 
 
Q: What is your role at Blue River Technology?
A: I am the General Manager of the Vegetables business. Currently, we have created machines that precisely and automatically thin lettuce fields using robotic technology. We operate these in the Salinas Valley, the Imperial Valley, and Yuma areas, offering thinning as a service to growers while we focus on improving the effectiveness and reliability of the machines. My role is to help our team build a strong foundation for our young business, improving our service and the technology, and to identify more opportunities to bring precision and robotic technology to the vegetable industry.
 
Q: What makes Blue River Technology unique in the seed industry?
A: I'd say our purpose makes us unique: we aim to utilize computer vision and robotics to build a future of plant-by-plant agriculture - where the needs of each plant are precisely measured and delivered, significantly reducing chemical use. This could have huge implications for the seed industry. Blue River is a young company that employs Silicon Valley engineers to solve problems in the agriculture industry. This is a huge challenge for us because the agriculture industry has a lot of ideas for how robots could be useful, and we then have to translate those ideas into what is possible within the environmental and economic constraints of agriculture. For instance, we are developing a plant and plot evaluation tool called Zea that will be offered to seed breeders. Zea is poised to not only streamline field trial data analysis, but provide a way to capture and preserve data in a way that was never before possible. And seed breeders will benefit, leading to benefits further down the value chain over time.
 
Q: What project(s) are you/your company working on? Any innovations?
A: I mentioned Zea, and there are a couple of other areas of the field crops industry that are getting some of our investment.  In vegetables, we continue to improve and learn from our thinning machines, leading to some advancement on a next generation of machines that might offer additional services beyond thinning and possibly to additional crops. We are also actively pursuing data collection and interpretation, and thinking about how this can benefit growers, shippers, and seed companies.
 
Q: Have any new members recently joined your team? If so, whom?
A: We seem to have new employees coming on weekly right now. This will probably continue to be the case for the foreseeable future, just because of the stage of our businesses. 

Q: How did you get started in the seed industry?
A: I worked in product development at organicgirl and learned more about the importance that seed development and technology plays in the industry. Then I became Managing Director for INCOTEC North America before joining Blue River in May.

 
Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry?
A: Go to work each day with your eyes and ears open, and soak up as much as you possibly can. Seek out some of the leaders in your company, customers and vendors and let them know that you are hungry to learn. And finally, join CSA and tell us how you want to get involved!

Q: Is your company active in community involvement? If so, how?
A: At this point, Blue River has been focused creating good technology and an excellent work environment, setting the building blocks for a successful company.  We do feel that community involvement is good for our employees and especially the community, and are looking forward to the time in the near-future that we can spend more of our resources on and in our community.
 
Q: Is there anything else you'd like CSA members to know about you or your company?
A: Let's talk about opportunities to "Make Every Plant Count"! www.bluerivert.com

 

Front row (left to right): Dave Armstrong, Hideto Kaneko, Monty McCoy, Hiroshi Sakata, Jeff Zischke, Diana Blea, Isabel Fuenzalida
Back row (left to right): Hiro Hashimoto, Justin Davis, John Nelson, Ken Reid, Tom Day, Ron Garofalo, Tye Anderson


Member Profile July 2015: Dave Armstrong

Dave Armstrong, President & CEO, Sakata America Holding Company, Inc. answers a few questions on his experience with Sakata and as a member of the California delegation that visited DC in June with ASTA.
 
Q: Tell us how your Senate visit went, are there any new developments?
A: The legislative agenda that the CA delegation presented to lawmaker's during our visits gives an outline to what the main topics were from our visits.
 
Q: Do you feel you made an impression during your visit to the Senate offices last week?
A: Industry members met with key staffers from CA congressmen and senators, where our message was positively received, and my follow up e-mails were promptly answered by the staffers. I believe we presented a very compelling story.
 
Q: What is your role at Sakata?
A: My role is President/CEO of Sakata America Holding Company, Inc.
 
Q: What makes Sakata unique in the seed industry?
A: What makes Sakata unique in the seed industry is our ability to achieve more than a century of consistent breakthroughs in breeding of vegetables and flowers.
 
Q: What project(s) are you/your company working on? Any recent innovations?
A: Some recent innovations from Sakata introduce exciting new genetics in a range of products, including melons, watermelons, spinach, peppers among many others.
 
Q: Have any new members recently joined your team? If so, whom?
A: Sakata America is building a strong team in research, seed production, sales and marketing across North/Central America in order to support our expanding assortment and to accelerate our growth.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry?
A: This is an exciting time to be in the seed industry, which is being transformed by new technologies in research, production and marketing. Seeds are truly 'seminal' to a healthy American food supply, and it's rewarding to contribute to that.
 
Q: Is your company active in community involvement? If so how?
A: Sakata was recently awarded the title of 'Water Saving Hero', click here for more information on Sakata Seed America's corporate social responsibility actions.



Front row (left to right): Dave Armstrong, Sakata Seed America; Betsy Petersen, CSA; Chuck Mouwen, Monsanto; Jeff Zischke, Sakata Seed America; Eduardo Mosqueda, Enza Zaden USA

Back row (left to right): Rich Falconer, Rijk Zwaan USA; Dale Krolikowski, Germains Seed Technology; Tom Moore, HM Clause; Rob Keene, Enza Zaden USA; Fred Fabre, S&W Seed Company, Mitchell Harkenrider, Ginny Patin Memorial Scholarship recipient


 

Photo: From Left to Right: Kraig Kuykendall - Sales Manager, Mandy Ramirez - Office Manager, Danny Kleinsmith - General Manager, Kevin Anaya - Warehouse, and Rick Gracia - Operations Manager


Member Profile May 2015: Kraig Kuykendall

Kraig Kuykendall, Sales Manager, Tozer Seeds America answers a few questions on his experience with Tozer and the seed industry. 

Q: What is your role at Tozer Seeds America?

A: I am the Sales Manager. My responsibilities include all sales and marketing and product development efforts for North and South America.
 
Q: What makes Tozer Seeds America unique in the seed industry?
A: Tozer Seeds is the largest family owned breeder/producer located in the United Kingdom. Tozer specializes in many unique products - our team of breeders have expertise in many different crops. Tozer Seeds had many 'firsts' in the vegetable seed business. They were the first to hybridize celery and parsnips - key items in the EU marketplace as well as the US/Canada market.
 
Q: What project(s) are you/your company working on? Any recent innovations?
A: We have recently come out with Kalette - a cross between kale and brussels sprouts. This is wildly popular due to the kale craze and healthy eating. It is exciting to have such a niche product go mainstream. The public demand outweighs production at the moment - a good problem to have.
 
Q: Have any new members recently joined your team? If so, whom?
A: We have a small staff here in the US and have no recent additions as of 2 years. We are 6 people strong with plans for expansion in the coming years.
 
Q: How did you get started in the seed industry?
A: Having graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with an Agricultural Engineer Technology degree, I really had no idea what field to go into - I simply needed a job. Like any graduate, I had my resume out with any and everyone just trying to find a job. I took my first job with Santa Maria Seeds in Product Development - working in both Salinas and Santa Maria. It wasn't even a month when I really felt this was a career for me - I absolutely found a passion. From there I went to work for Sakata Seed America where different opportunities arose. This led me to my current position at Tozer Seeds America - both previous employers playing pivotal roles in my career. I am very thankful for the opportunities and to have worked at both companies.

 Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry?
A: My advice to someone starting in this business would be to look at internships that various seed companies offer. It would be a great way to find that perfect fit for you personality as well as skill set. Many of the CSA members offer great opportunities in the hope they find the right fit for employment.

Q: Is your company active in community involvement? If so how?
A: Tozer Seeds America sponsors local youth athletic teams, local FFA and 4-H animals at the various fairs in California.
 


Member Profile April 2015: Lisa Branco

Lisa Branco, Sales Manager at Radicle Seed Company and Vice Chair of the Industry Communications & Youth Activities Committee, answers a few questions on her experience with Radicle and the seed industry. 

Q: What is your role at Radicle Seed Company?
A: I am the Sales Manager at Radicle Seed Company, formerly T&C Supplies. On August 1, 2014 we proudly announced that T&C Supplies changed its name to Radicle Seed Company. A lot had changed since the business was first founded as T&C Supplies, Inc. back in 1985. The "T" is no longer with the company and our primary focus has changed from greenhouse supplies to seed sales. With a great team now in place serving the Salinas Valley, San Joaquin Valley and Coachella Valley, it seemed like the right time for a complete makeover and fresh start. We worked closely with the creative team at Articulate Solutions to come up with the new company name, logo and responsive website: www.radicleseed.com. We are very pleased with the clean, modern look that reflects the level of professional service and support that we provide.

Q: What makes Radicle Seed unique in the industry?
A: What makes Radicle Seed unique is our approach of the market. Our initial focus was on supplying seed for transplant crops, however, as we've grown and become more of a service provider to our customers, our product lines have expanded as well.

Q:What project(s) are you/your company working on? Any recent innovations?
A: We are excited to partner along with Holaday Seed, as dealers of Bayer Crop Science's (formerly known as Nunhems) lettuce and spinach product lines. Holaday had been a dealer of their product, we were added on in early 2015.

Q: How did you get started in the seed industry?
A: Born and raised in Salinas, I've been surrounded by agriculture my entire life. From an early age, I knew getting into agriculture was what I wanted to do. Maybe it was the concept of getting paid to play in the dirt, but I've always admired and respected the hard working men and women who are responsible for growing our food. During my college years, I interned at Seed Dynamics. I learned so much from them and realized the seed industry was what I was passionate about. Upon graduation from Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo), I returned home to the Salinas Valley where I began my career with Radicle Seed and its sister company, Headstart Nursery.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone getting started in the seed industry?
A: My advice for someone getting started in the seed industry I learned from our President, Steve Costa: "Patience and persistence. There is a lot to learn in order to be a resource for your customers."

Q: Is your company active in community involvement? If so how?
A; Radicle Seed is involved in our community as a sponsor of the California Rodeo Salinas; and employees are active participants in the Salinas Valley Half Marathon; Gilroy Foundation; Garlic Festival; Monterey County Farm Day; Farm Bureau; Boys & Girls Club of Coachella Valley.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like CSA members to know about you or your company?
A: In case you weren't aware, Radicle Seed was part of the winning Bocce Ball team - if you don't believe us just ask The Champ, Mike Trebino! He was bragging a bit at the annual meeting after a few adult beverages :)