Sales in the hobby and semi-professional markets, and particularly in the home gardening sector, have skyrocketed this "Covid-19 year" showing a 30% increase of consumption. Gardening is actually an escape for people who are forced to remain close to home for an extended time. Gardening combines many advantages – it provides occupation, constitutes therapy and finally rewards with edible produce. In an era of growing vegetables and herbs for private consumption, the organic aspect is increasingly important since it involves food that we consume, which we expect to be healthy and pure.
Genesis Seeds is among the pioneer companies that produce organic vegetables and herb seeds. We met with Isaac Nir, the company’s founder to hear about the company’s founding principles, of which the organic aspect is a basic tenet.
Isaac says that the company has set several goals for itself and has realized them all:
The first aim was to focus on organic production, the second – to place its development center in the Negev desert, and third – to rely on in-house production of seeds in Israel without purchasing seeds from abroad; and fourth, to sell seeds to wholesalers (distributors and seed companies) rather than directly to growers.
Prior to establishing the company, Isaac dealt with planning and development of agricultural projects in Israel and abroad, and while doing so was exposed to the damage inflicted on the soil as a result of intensive agricultural production which changed it from a living habitat of active essential organisms into an inert habitat that served primarily to anchor plants. In addition, he studied the damage arising from drainage of nitrates, fertilizer remnants and pesticides into the ground water.
In the early days (1996) Genesis Seeds staff had already attempted to involve the new organic agriculture, because they had realized it would eventually become important, sustainable agriculture. The company believed that organic management would permit a better control over nutrition, water consumption, and pesticide usage along with a positive effect on the environment..
Isaac tells us about the company’s history: “My partners and my dear departed friend, Emanuel (Manny) Shemin from the U.S., shared my enthusiasm for the direction we chose to go and for the name ‘Genesis
Seeds’ we gave the company. Over the years, this name came to be well identified in the organic sector.
The decision to establish the company at Ashalim, Ramat HaNegev, Isaac explains, was intended to build an agricultural plant in Israel’s desert, so it would no longer be known as a place to buy “expensive water cheaply”, and would provide good, interesting livelihood for local residents. “That’s how we succeeded in making the desert bloom”.
Initially, Genesis Seeds didn’t stock Intellectual Property (IP) varieties. Isaac went on to explain: “We based ourselves on a broad list of Open Pollination (OP) varieties for the hobby market. Annually, we created over 350 varieties of quality herbs, flowers and vegetables, which paved our way into the very heart of the seeds business.
“At first, production of organic seeds was received as an oxymoron, since there is no actual genetic difference between regular and organic seeds, but the realization sank in slowly that if all inputs are organic, it is also necessary to begin with organic seeds that contain advantages of acquired resistances while protecting environment health. Unique organic varieties also serve regular growers very successfully.”
In order to secure the future, the company built two organic R & D stations in the Negev and the Galilee, dealing both with development of agro-technical knowledge and with cultivating new varieties. Over the years, varieties of basil, oregano, stevia, melon, cucumber, artichoke, pepper, tomato, zucchini, etc., were developed by the company, in cooperation with research institutes.
Since the herb sector (mainly basil) is marginal for most leading seed companies, Genesis Seeds decided to focus on developing and producing unique basil cultivars, which currently constitute more than 50% of the company's sales. This achievement resulted from breeding collaboration of Genesis with the Volcani Institute (Neve Ya’ar) and with Bar-Ilan University, which gave birth to several unique cultivars on a global level. The range of basils that was developed cover all aspects of basil cultivation: fresh cut branches from the Open-field or Greenhouses, potted products for supermarkets or nurseries and even for pesto sauce factories. These varieties combine agro-technical traits – shape, color, growth rate, uniformity, together with biochemical traits – aroma and disease resistance. Research on basil continues full speed in additional directions that can help growers, such as: cold resistance, improved shelf-life and on-going strengthening of resistance.
The organic sector in agriculture is flourishing quickly world-wide at an annual rate of 20-25%, particularly in North America and the European Common Market, headed by Germany and Scandinavia. Awakened interest in organic production is also notable in developing countries in the East, Africa and Australia.
Appreciating the value of organic farming for environment health has led Western governments to encourage conversion of land use for organic agriculture. Another aspect of organic plants’ success is the establishment of trust between seed producers and growers, so that the end products' quality gains consumer trust. They will then return to purchase organic products according to their satisfaction with product characteristics. In the breeding process, Genesis pays special attention to traits such as - appearance, flavor and consistency. Just being organic isn’t enough.
As noted, during the Covid-19 period there were hundreds of percent of increase in the hobby and semi-professional growing areas that also positively influenced company sales by about 30%. In the first quarter of 2021 sales continued to grow by more than 40%. Most of the recorded growth is in new basil varieties, that are resistant to DAWNEY MELDEW.
Genesis Seeds is a family owned company that has continued successfully for several generations, aspiring to remain both a family and an Israeli enterprise. The company’s CEO is Shai Nir, who together with his father Isaac and its dedicated professional staff, are moving the company toward a new decade, under the motto of a gradual transition from the hobby department to the professional division.
The Company’s challenge for the near future is to continue breeding hybrid basils and cucumbers with desirable traits of resistance to Fusarium and downy-mildew, and to identify additional opportunities in the herb, vegetable and flower sectors that aren't held by large companies. Thus, the company signals its desire to preserve its organic niche status, while developing and marketing a unique selection of quality seeds.