Seed World

20 Most Inspiring Gen Z Employees In The EU Seed Sector In 2022: 16-20

In this issue of European Seed, we would like to put the spotlight on some of the young people that are active in our sector, and provide an inspiration for others. We selected the age group until 30 years, often termed as ‘Generation Z’ (or Gen Z).

As in previous years, you will again find a few lines of text per winner, explaining in a nutshell who they are and how they are inspiring others. We hope you enjoy the list, and as usual, we very much welcome and look forward to any feedback you wish to share.

Read parts one, two, and three.

Here are 16-20, alphabetically on last name:

Emily ter Steeg, Seed NL, The Netherlands

Emily has worked for over a year with SeedNL, a Dutch public-private partnership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, seed association Plantum and the Dutch Potato Organisation to provide farmers with access to quality seed available in low- and middle-income countries. In parallel, she works on her PhD research at Wageningen University on the impact of Dutch vegetable seed in various low-tech markets in Sub-Sahara Africa looking at business strategies and seed sector development. Her first paper called ‘Crucial factors for the feasibility of commercial hybrid breeding in food crops’ was published in Nature Plants. “What I like so much about the sector is that it links my interests in technology, agriculture and the relationship between developed and emerging markets,” Emily said. “Moreover, the impact of seed on global nutrition security is enormous: no seed, no food. Climate change and demographic changes result in such pressing challenges, seed might seem like the most basic thing, but it is also the start of everything and part of the solution to so many global challenges. I want to be part of that!”

Nick van Uffelen, Product Manager APAC at Syngenta Flowers, The Netherlands

Nick finds the world behind the scenes to develop flowers (but also vegetables and field crops) simply fascinating. “The high level of technology to develop new varieties, and the supply chain needed to produce and deliver them are so advanced. It is key to deliver them high quality varieties in time so they can provide the world with beautiful flowers. It requires alignment and collaboration to make growers successful. Having had the opportunity to work from the Netherlands, the United States and now APAC really shows how dynamic, diverse and global the seeds industry is.”

Being one of the youngest product managers at Syngenta Flowers, Nick has shown the ability to make effective and deliberate decisions. Within his global strategy, regional supply chain and marketing roles, he has shown purpose and versatility to help his colleagues, the business and himself to continuously develop.

Panida Wadsworth, Plant Breeder at Elsoms, UK

From growing a miniature garden on her childhood windowsill to hobby breeding spicy chillies in her father’s greenhouse, Panida strived from an early age to enter the world of plant breeding. Demonstrating the drive that saw her working night shifts to fund her master’s degree, Panida seized the opportunities provided by Elsoms, becoming a valued member of the multi-species breeding team.

Working alongside senior breeder Mark Nightingale, she has already made a major contribution to the development of more robust oilseed rape and soya varieties. Panida is now working with Elsoms’ UK and European partners to pioneer the development of hemp and flax in the UK, supporting the re-establishment of a natural fibres industry, a key to the UK meeting its net zero targets.

Panida is an inspiration to young scientists, demonstrating that exciting career opportunities in breeding enable them to make a real, tangible difference to society.

Cathy Westhues, Machine Learning Scientist at Computomics, Germany

With her broad and comprehensive knowledge in machine learning and breeding, Dr. Cathy Westhues pioneers in bringing these two disciplines together. Helping plant breeders to make an informed choice and supporting breeding decisions applying machine learning is in her DNA. Cathy is an extraordinary personality with a strong character who brings innovation into an extremely traditional industry.

Cathy developed an R package using novel machine learning techniques which lets you input multi-environment breeding datasets — genomic, phenotypic and potentially environmental data. These methods generally result in more precise environment-specific phenotypic predictions than traditional statistical methods. Besides focusing on further developing and advancing xSeedScore, Computomics’ machine learning-based technology for predictive breeding, Cathy is working in customer-specific projects related to understanding and predicting the interaction between plants and their environment. Cathy’s passion, curiosity and thinking outside the box inspires the whole team.

Alessandro Zavatteri, Legal Advisor at Variety Innovation B.V. and student at KU Leuven, Belgium

Alessandro approached plant breeding when he was a child, in his grandparents’ small vineyards. There, he developed his awareness about the value of plant genetic resources for agriculture, a topic that he also explored in the Master of Agri-Food Law of the University of Turin. Moved by his genuine passion, he has turned plant breeding into his professional common thread, which has led him to Colombia, France (at the CPVO) and Belgium. Currently, he his working as a legal advisor for a company managing an international portfolio of plant breeders’ rights and, as a student of the Master of IP & ICT of KU Leuven, he will focus his thesis on the contribution of plant breeding to sustainability in the framework of EU Geographical Indications. Through his professional engagement, he witnesses the importance of plant breeding for society and the beauty of a sector which is a source of never-ending inspiration.