SIMON N. GROOT, the Dutchman who founded East-West Seed some 33 years ago in Manila, recently received the prestigious Mansholt Business Award for Sustainable Entrepreneurship. The award which was bestowed by Wageningen University in The Netherlands is in recognition of his contribution to the vegetable farming sector in the tropics over the last three decades. Wageningen University is recognized as the best agricultural research university in the world.
The recipients of the Mansholt Business Award are selected on the basis of the OECD guidelines on sustainable entrepreneurship, with focus on the value chain, corporate social responsibility, human rights, and the environment.
SIMON GROOT SAYS: “Our world is dominated by small scale farmers. What we do is add value to their labor and land. We have worked hard to create better genetics in tropical vegetable crops, using plant breeding technologies that have been successful for centuries in the West where I came from. After we started that, we realized that better crop varieties also needed better farming systems, Therefore, we built local teams of extension workers to extend productivity-enhancing knowledge to farmers in the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and recently we have started in Myanmar.”
SIMON N. GROOT talking to school children during a school gardening event at the SM Baliuag Event Center in Bulacan. East-West Seed had a collaborative project in vegetable gardening with SM Baliuag which aims to teach school children the importance of growing and eating vegetables. (Photo by Zac B. Sarian)
Groot started the company with an economic vision to improve the income and livelihood of smallholder farmers, and to contribute to increased availability and quality of vegetables in the tropics. The combination of European seed technology and expertise, tropical know-how and local experience and entrepreneurship led to the first market-oriented vegetable breeding company in Southeast Asia, East-West Seed.
The company bridged the gap in farmer extension and technology transfer, responding to the changing economic and social conditions in agriculture-based developing countries. So, in addition to developing better varieties suited to the tropics, East-West Seed took a leadership role in tropical vegetable farming extension with a strong farmer orientation and emphasis on sustainability.