The story of Marco

‘A gene bank shouldn’t be a museum’

Marco Wopereis (pictured centre) is director general of the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg), an international non-profit research and development institute specialised in vegetables. He shares Rijk Zwaan’s conviction that vegetables play an important role in the future development of Asia and Africa.


“At the World Vegetable Center we work to tackle poverty and malnutrition by stimulating the production and consumption of healthy vegetables. There is still substantial progress to be made, especially in Africa – not only by supporting the countless smallholders by providing starting material and knowledge, but also by setting up cooperative models and developing the value chain. This can significantly boost the labour market, particularly close to urban areas. Commercial activities create win-win situations!”

Long-term investments

“Needless to say, good seeds are one of the most important prerequisites. That’s why we’re so happy that a breeding company like Rijk Zwaan is investing for the long term. At WorldVeg, we have the world’s largest public gene banks containing more than 60,000 accessions from around 145 countries. Our gene bank shouldn’t be a museum, however, which is why we’re proactively looking to connect with the breeding sector. We’re keen for such companies to use our material in order to further improve vegetable varieties – such as with stronger resistances against diseases or better tolerances of higher temperatures.”

“At the same time, Rijk Zwaan can give us valuable information about real-life situations. You only find out what’s really needed by working closely with the growers – such as the importance of resistances against newly emerging diseases, for example. But breeding companies also face logistical challenges in ensuring that consumers have a reliable supply of high-quality vegetables.”

Reaching full potential

“We have ambitious goals, especially in southern Asia and Africa where low vegetable consumption is restricting the development of millions of children. It is preventing them from reaching their full potential, which is unforgivable and cannot be remedied later. We expect to see huge demand for vegetables in the rapidly expanding towns and cities. That demand should not – and cannot – be met through imports so the industry needs to professionalise in these regions. That’s why collaborative partnerships between the private sector and organisations such as WorldVeg are so very important.”