The market for organic seeds has increased tremendously in recent years. Its rapid annual growth poses a challenge for seed production. Managing growth and maintaining stock levels requires the best efforts of Bejo’s production team and growers. To ensure we’re ready for future challenges, we’re investing in capacity and teaming up with skilled partners all over the world. One of them is Sementes Vivas, an organic seed company based in eastern central Portugal.
So far, our dedicated production facilities in Europe and the US have been able to meet the growing demand for organic seed. We’re managing indoor production very well. However, we anticipate that we’ll need to double our greenhouse production capacity by 2035, when growers in the EU will be obliged to use organic seed for all their crops. That may seem a long way off, but in organic production terms it really isn’t.
We also face challenges with the big outdoor crops, such as carrot, beet and onion. First, land suitable for organic seed production – that is, land that benefits from the right climate conditions and low disease pressure – is scarce. Second, we need to acquire enough land to produce different crops some distance apart to prevent unwanted cross-pollination. Finally, skilled dedicated organic growers are hard to find. Getting all these elements in place is difficult.
Cooperating to face future challenges
In light of all this, Bejo is always looking for new partners to produce its organic seeds. It’s no easy task, since we maintain high standards. One of our newer partners is Sementes Vivas (“Living Seed”), an organic seed company in eastern central Portugal. It’s operated by two young Wageningen University graduates who share a passion for organic agriculture. Their website, at www.sementesvivas.bio, offers a fascinating look at their work and their company philosophy.
“Getting the best results in organic seed production is an elite sport, like playing in the Champions League or the Super Bowl. Our growers face all kinds of challenges – weeds, diseases and different insects that threaten their crops. We know a lot about how to deal with most of these threats, but there’s still a long way to go if we want to keep up with the fast-rising demand for organic seeds.”
Learning by doing
After getting acquainted in 2018 and learning more about each other’s company, way of working and culture, in 2019 Bejo and Sementes Vivas started the first flowering trials to test the performance of Bejo varieties under Portuguese conditions. Our standard procedure is to start with basic genetic trials of varieties we know well. We’re now in our second year, the first seed productions are in the field and the first seed crops have been harvested. We’re learning together, exchanging experiences and sharing all the necessary growing information. We’ve developed a close relationship over the past two years and can take pride in promising results so far.
With this sound basis in place, we look forward to a long and fruitful cooperation.