PopFest 2023

PopVriend Seeds in Andijk

Deep dive into the world of vegetables

Since it was acquired in 2019, PopVriend Seeds has generated important synergies in KWS’ newest business unit, pooling our scientific know-how and many years of experience in vegetable seed breeding from the Netherlands. The Dutch member of our KWS family organizes the PopFest every September.

New spinach varieties are sown every week and must be adapted to the seasons, explains Johan Rijk.

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning in Andijk. Lake Ijssel is right behind the dike, and a colorful sign on the right of the road points the way to the PopFest. Right next to it, in the greenhouse normally used for breeding work, the first groups of visitors are already arriving. For the Open Days, it is transformed every year into a place where visitors can not only discover the latest vegetable varieties and innovations in the fields, but also stay for lunch and enjoy a pita with PopVriend vegetables or a red beet muffin.

“We want to offer our customers an all-round experience,” says Merel Kors from the Marketing Team, who organized the event. “PopVriend focuses on just four crops, and we want to be the most specialized partner in the industry for them. In practice, that means addressing and inspiring the entire value chain from producer to consumer.” Preparations for the PopFest begin as early as May, with the project team deciding which new ideas will be included depending on the feedback from customer support colleagues in the markets.

Just 21 days from sowing to harvesting

“We really want to talk directly with our visitors and discuss the challenges they face in their everyday work. That allows us to directly identify many needs and wishes for our vegetable seed,” explains Jacco Kaarsemaker, Head of Marketing and Communications at the Business Unit Vegetables. “The value chain for vegetables is changing at a rapid pace – in addition to agronomic properties that are driven by climate change, sustainability and efficiency, for example, aspects such as taste, convenience and attractiveness are also important. It’s very important to know what consumers want. After all, millions of people around the world eat our products every day.”

Lovingly prepared: For lunch, there are vegetables served up in unusual ways – from the pita platter to red beet muffins

René van Meijel presents overarching concepts at the PopFest

Successful event: An all-round experience for customers

The preferences of guests vary depending on the country and customer interests – as can be seen from the different spinach varieties growing in the fields around the greenhouse. While young spinach (baby leaf) is popular in the U.S., for instance, people in Asia tend to prefer leaf spinach (bunching spinach) with its typical red roots. “Spinach is a very dynamic vegetable,” says Johan Rijk, Senior Spinach Breeder. “Baby leaf spinach, for example, can be harvested just 21 days after being sown. Our farmers have to supply supermarkets on a weekly basis and so every week they sow new varieties we develop. These are adapted to the seasons and light conditions, for example.”

“Spinach is a very dynamic vegetable.”

Johan Rijk

Event location for a week: PopVriend Seeds’ greenhouse in Andijk

From the producer to the consumer: Red beet juice, the final link in the value chain

In the midst of things: Visitors can get first-hand information directly from the field

Keen interest in catch crops

New ranges and products are also on display at the PopFest – and are thus planted directly in the minds of visitors. One example is KWS’ Fit4NEXT range: The catch crops are a fine way to implement crop rotations for spinach and beans and keep soils rich in nutrients. Five of the mixtures were shown at the PopFest to arouse the interest of guests and demonstrate the contribution to sustainability catch crops make.

“We at PopVriend don’t sell catch crops at the moment,” says René van Meijel. “However, we can see there is keen interest among visitors and a growing market for sustainable solutions – a good idea for leveraging even more synergies together with KWS in the future.” |

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