Rijk Zwaan Welver is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rijk Zwaan, a vegetable breeding company located in the Netherlands. Rijk Zwaan is a family company and currently ranks five in the global ranking of vegetable seed breeders.
Rijk Zwaan in Scandinavia
As the first Rijk Zwaan subsidiary abroad, Rijk Zwaan in Germany was founded in Unna in 1964. Due to reasons of further location development, the company relocated to Welver in 1974. Not far from the central site of the main building in the community of Welver, the company operates a demo and trial station with 20 ha surface area.
Rijk Zwaan Marne GmbH in Dithmarschen, Northern Germany, is responsible for developing an innovative, global head cabbage program on 40 ha outdoor and 10,000 m² indoor trial surface.
From Welver, Rijk Zwaan distributes seeds in Germany and to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland and Czechia and supports the distribution of seeds to various Eastern European countries far beyond the borders of Germany. Rijk Zwaan Welver has been active in Scandinavia since 1980. The Nordic Team supports partners in choosing varieties suitable for Scandinavia and gives advice on cultivation questions.
The growth and success of Rijk Zwaan Welver build on the long-term business relations to a growing number of partners, customers and suppliers. One of the key success factors is the unique corporate culture which places the employees at the centre of entrepreneurial activities. In order to maintain this beneficial environment, the recruitment and long-term employment of staff who identify with company culture are of utmost importance.
Rijk Zwaan demofield, September 2015
Rijk Zwaan International
Rijk Zwaan puts people at its centre. With around 3,500 employees in over 30 different countries it is devoted to developing products and services with added value for its partners. Our motivated colleagues and the continuous investments we make in research and development result in a truly healthy organisation. We are aware of the big personal responsibility that this position carries. So together with our partners we want to actively promote and stimulate vegetable consumption and contribute to its supply.
Facts and Figures year 2020/2021
- Number of employees globally: ca 3.500 in more than 30 countries
- Number of employees in the Netherlands: ca 1450
- Sales in more than 100 countries via 30 local sales subsidiaries and numerous distributors
- Number of subsidiaries abroad: more than 30
- Turnover: approx. 475 million euros
- Number of crops: more than 25
- Number of commercial varieties: more than 1.200
- Investments in R&D: around 30% of turnover
- Market position in vegetable seeds: no. 4 vegetable breeding company in the world with a market share of 9%
In the case of a genetically modified organism (GMO), the genetic material is altered in a way that would not be possible naturally. GMOs are primarily used in staple crops such as maize and soybean; they are very uncommon in vegetable crops.
Rijk Zwaan does not develop any varieties that fall under GMO regulation and believes that GMOs are unnecessary in vegetable varieties. Thanks to our planet’s huge biodiversity, there are more than enough opportunities for us to continue our breeding work in a natural way.
Rijk Zwaan considers it important to earn a return on its investment in order to be able to reinvest in research and development activities. Plant breeders’ rights enable it to do so. Over the past two decades, patent law has entered the plant breeding arena. Patents on technological inventions can contribute to innovative strength. However, extending patents to cover biological material can hinder innovation.
Rijk Zwaan believes that patent-protected biological material should remain available for use in developing new varieties. It must also be possible to commercialise the resulting new varieties. We support the standpoint of our industry association, Plantum, in this matter. We are an initiator and member of the International Licensing Platform Vegetable (ILP), whose members give each other access to patent-protected biological material in return for a reasonable fee.
Many countries have ratified the Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). In principle, it is not allowed to reproduce and sell propagating material of protected varieties without prior consent of the plant breeders’ rights holder.
Small farmers in developing countries however do not need consent to save and use, exchange or sell self-produced propagating material to support themselves. Plant Breeders’ Rights does not extend to acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes (UPOV 1991). The flowchart developed jointly by Oxfam, Plantum and Euroseeds, helps farmers and breeders to decide whether the exception is applicable.
New breeding techniques
In recent years, a number of new breeding techniques have been developed which can considerably accelerate the development of new varieties. In the case of some of these new plant breeding techniques, the European Commission is currently investigating whether they should fall under GMO regulation.
Rijk Zwaan believes that it is in society’s best interests to ensure that, if a new breeding technique produces varieties that are essentially no different from varieties developed using more conventional methods (and hence that are equally safe), that breeding technique should be permitted without unnecessarily costly and/or time-consuming deregulation. Once again, we support the standpoint of our industry association, Plantum, in this matter.
Position of smallholders
Rijk Zwaan strives to add value in developing countries as well as developed ones. We therefore also maintain a high standard of quality in developing countries and consciously opt for hybrid varieties, underlining our long-term approach. The production of such varieties demands a greater investment than traditional ‘open pollinated’ varieties but it ultimately results in a higher yield and better quality. Hence these hybrid varieties contribute to the development of local sales networks and to boosting local vegetable consumption.
Rijk Zwaan is firmly convinced that small-scale, local growers play a key role in building a sustainable food supply in developing countries. Although important, good varieties alone are not enough; knowledge transfer is essential to maximise the potential of these varieties. In this context, Rijk Zwaan works very closely with governments, NGOs and other (local) partners.
Our seeds and our specific knowledge and techniques enable us to contribute to a healthy future. Our varieties help to facilitate increasingly efficient utilisation of agricultural land and lead to a continued reduction in the use of crop protection agents. In order to develop new varieties, we must have continued access to nature’s genetic diversity. We need a healthy foundation as the basis for our trials. Therefore it is only logical that we make respectful and sustainable use of the environment and our natural resources.
Rijk Zwaan is not only aware of its responsibility towards the planet but also shoulders its responsibilities as an employer. The company’s primary objective is to offer its employees an enjoyable and long-term job. This approach results in a high level of employee satisfaction and low rate of employee turnover, and this translates into healthy growth figures for the company.
Rijk Zwaan strongly condemns child labour. Because child labour unfortunately occurs in some of the countries we operate in, we actively address the topic with our partners in those countries.
We are aware that India is a particularly high-risk area with respect to child labour, so we take a number of extra measures in that country. In our contracts with producers, we explicitly state that we will not tolerate child labour. We arrange for external audits of our producers. We work in conjunction with a number of fellow breeding companies and local partners to invest in educating local parents about child labour. We will also be introducing this approach in other countries in the longer term.
Biodiversity is very important for vegetable breeding. In order to ensure we can continue to respond to market needs and contribute to food security we are always on the look-out for new genetic variation in our crops.
We work with gene banks around the world to help us in this quest. We finance collection missions that enable the gene banks to expand their collections and to safeguard genetic resources for the future. In addition, we help to describe, characterise and multiply these genetic resources. This, and the development of new varieties, are our direct contribution to preserving the agrobiodiversity of our planet and to better vegetables for future generations.
The vision of Kees, Ben and Marco
‘People at the center’Read the story
Read more about Rijk Zwaan’s activities and opinions on the corporate website