Simon Groot, who founded the large seed company East-West Seed group, has received the Mansholt Business Award. This happened at the opening of the academic year on 7 September.
Simon Groot worked in vegetable breeding at the plant breeding company Sluis & Groot. When the company was bought out in 1980 he started a new company, East- West Seed, in south-east Asia. He developed vegetable seeds and sold them to small farmers in Indonesia, Thailand, India and the Philippines. East-West Seed is now a leading vegetable seed business in Asia and opened a branch in Africa recently too.
Groot has always sought collaboration with Wageningen UR in order to mobilize Dutch knowledge in the interests of small farmers in developing countries, said jury chair Jan Karel Mak of the University Fund Wageningen (UFW). He set up 12 research stations in south-east Asia, from which he shared knowledge with local horticulturalists. Through this open innovation he succeeded in developing seeds which were adapted to local conditions. He developed a tropical tomato variety, for example, which can be grown at altitudes of up to 1000 metres. In his thank-you speech, Groot said he will donate the prize to the Anne van der Ban Fund, which offers grants to students from developing countries. He hopes this fund will offer a few grants to students from Myanmar, where his company recently went into business.
He also had a warning for Wageningen UR: make sure the experimental stations for applied research stay intact; otherwise you will lose your strong position in expertise and innovation. The ‘Mansholt Business Award for sustainable entrepreneurship’ is awarded one every three years.
Photo: Bart de Gouw