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Monsanto forms International fruit, vegetable seed holding company

Monsanto Company has announced the formation of the International Seed Group, Inc. (ISG), a holding company to invest in vegetable and fruit seed businesses with capital and technology investments.

The cornerstone of the venture is Holland-based Western Seed, which specializes in tomato hybrids as well as other vegetable and fruit crops. In January, ISG also acquired Poloni Semences, a Charentais melon breeding company based in France. As ISG operating companies, Western and Poloni will be able to more directly connect their customers to significant innovations in breeding while continuing to operate locally, providing great service to their customers and building the value of their brands.

“ISG will complement our Seminis business, providing vegetable growers with greater access to innovations from the brands they already rely on and through the distribution channels that they are familiar with,” noted Kerry Preete, who leads Monsanto’s vegetable seed division, including Seminis and the new holding company.

In the last year, Seminis refocused its business portfolio to 25 key crops, including tomatoes, peppers and melons—the primary crops for Western and Poloni. “The ISG platform strengthens our presence in key crops and in areas that are marked for growth,” said Preete. “By acquiring Western and Poloni, we improve our position in greenhouse tomato and pepper production and enter the high-value European melon market. Additionally, Western and Poloni’s germplasm libraries will be used in tandem with Seminis’ leading global vegetable germplasm resources with the goal of developing products for farmers and consumers.”

Preete continues, “The ISG business model is new to the vegetable industry, but has been very successful in agronomic crops in the United States, where regional, often family-run companies get access to the funding and technology they need to stay competitive, while maintaining their personal connections with their customers.”

Seed industry veterans Anthony Padgett and David Atkinson are under contract to manage ISG. Western Seed and Poloni continue to operate under the direction of their current management. Alois van Vliet, Managing Director of Western Seed International BV, continues to lead Western’s employees while Guillaume Lacarriere directs the research and business operations for Poloni.

Van Vliet said that Western’s rapid success in the market is due to its early adoption of technology and its quick reaction to customer needs. He plans to maintain this go-to-market philosophy. “With ISG, we found that we could greatly expand our technological capabilities, while maintaining the agility of a small company. This will be good for Western and good for our customers,” said Van Vliet.

Lacarriere said that he expected the pace of innovation in the Poloni melon research program to greatly increase. “Monsanto and its Seminis unit are building a tremendous platform for molecular markers in melons to speed up the breeding process. Access to the technology and the huge databases that manage the information should cut the development timelines by years, and enable us to offer our customers and consumers the highest quality melons quicker,” he said.

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