Meet the Breeder - Irma with Takii Seeds

Meet the Seed Breeders! 

In this meet the breeder we speak with Irma Jansen with Takii Seeds, a well respected worldwide seed breeder. Takii carries the brand SAHIN which Fontana Seeds is proud of to be offering to our customers. SAHIN is the brand name of Takii representing the varieties for the "Home Garden" market. These genetics are being marketed to wholesalers and distributors who either sell the seed in pictorial packets through gardening supply stores or sell it directly to consumers by mail order.

Irma with Takii Seeds

- How did get involved in the Seed industry?

A: After having lived in South Africa for many years, I returned to Holland with my husband and two sons, both born in South Africa. I had the opportunity to return to my previous employer, a large forwarding company in Rotterdam. However, this turned out to be impractical in daily life with daycare and school for the boys. So, instead, I responded to a vacancy in the newspaper for the position of Customer Service Employee with a company called Sahin Zaden B.V. as Sahin was conveniently located near my home. At that point in time I had no experience whatsoever in the horticultural business but my general experience in my previous jobs, my fluency in the English language and my South African connections were of great interest to Elisabeth and Kees Sahin. I learned a lot quickly and what I did not realise at the time, but do now: I had the best possible tutors in both Kees and Elisabeth Sahin and of course the massive assortment that we still carried in those days.

- What is your function at Sahin Zaden?

A: From Customer Service Employee I gradually moved on to taking on more and more responsibilities, started travelling to conventions with Elisabeth Sahin, production planning etc. My current position as Account & Product Manager Home Garden products involves many different tasks: input in breeding, accountmanagement, forecasting, maintain assortment, prepare pricelists and catalogues and many more tasks involved.

- Has a lot changed after Takii took over Sahin in 2007?

First big change was the split of the original Sahin assortiment: mostly the hybrid varieties were moved over to the Takii Seed assortment: varieties suitable for the professional growers. The true home garden varieties were incorporated in a separate assortment carrying the SAHIN Brand. Gradually we had to take other necessary steps, one being the reduction in number of varieties that we carried actively: Kees Sahin was a true-to-heart enthusiast and lover of each and every variety which resulted in an active assortment of nearly 3000 flower varieties. Since each variety needs to be maintained, produced, tested etc it was only sound to sanitise the assortment.

Irma with Takii Seeds

- Is there a benefit of having your head office in The Netherlands?

A: The Netherlands has always been the heart of seed production so yes, to be located in the heart of the seed industry has its advantages

- How many seed varieties does Sahin has in its assortment?

A: Our current active assortment consists of around 550 varieties, 10% of which are vegetable varieties

- In which type of seed is Sahin specialised?

A: Sahin specialises in flower seeds for the Home Gardener. With an active breeding department we are always on the look out for new and interesting varieties. Home gardeners like their favourites like Sunflower, Cosmos, Marigolds but with a twist.

- What makes Sahin seeds so special?

A: I would say definitely our innovative varieties combined with dependable seed quality and a very experienced team

- How do you create a new variety?

A: new varieties can be discovered as spontaneous deviations in an existing variety which we will then try to isolate, stabilise and multiply. Alternatively we cross certain varieties in an attempt to combine good traits in different varieties into one new variety. Besides this breeding and selection work in open pollinated varietes, we also hybridize varieties to make new cultivars.

- How much time does this take?

A: That can take anywhere from three years to ten or more years, depending on the crop you are working with

- How many new seed varieties do you add per year?

A: we aim to introduce 30-40 new varieties each year

- What is the most fun part of your work?

A: Best part of the job and the year is our outdoor Trial field that we have in Zeeland each Summer. A lot of preparation goes into that but it is very rewarding to see all varieties in full flower each year. Our trial grounds are the showroom of all our varieties so many of our customers pay our trials a visit to look at the existing and new varieties, to get ideas for their assortment.

(The majority of the photos you see on the Fontana Seeds website were taken in this trial field!)

Trials Seeds Takii

- Why is it fun to work for this company?

A: The Home Garden division is a separate division within Takii Europe, next to our Flowers and Vegetables divisions for the professional growers. Takii is a longstanding familiy company which is translated in the way the company is run on a day-to-day basis: employees are cared for in the same way you would for family members.

- How did you see the seed industry change over the last decades?

A: there seems to be continuous movement and changes in the industry. The last 10-15 years have been a time with many buy outs and take overs. Large companies have grown even larger, smaller companies have been gobbled up or just disappeared. On top of that it does seem though that the number of breeding companies, especially flower seed breeders, have decreased in number

- Of which accomplishment or development at Sahin are you most proud of?

A: the Sahin brand is a wellknown name in the industry and stands for innovation and quality

- What is the most difficult and the biggest challenge for a seed breeder?

A: Production of commercial quantities of the many different seed varieties is getting more and more complicated each year due to increased restrictions laid out by the various countries

- What mistakes do you often see home gardeners make as a professional breeder?

A: can’t say that home gardeners make a lot of mistakes: as a matter of fact most home gardeners are quite experienced. And even if they were not experienced: if they follow the instructions, usually on the back of the seed packets, anyone can grow their own!

- How do you know if you found a winner variety?

A: what can I say: you get that tingly feeling and you just know! Of course that has come with the many years of being in this industry and looking around in the market to know what is already there.

- Are you seeds genetically modified?


- Are your seeds organic?

A: We carry both conventional and organically grown seed varieties. Takii Europe has been licensed as an organic grower since October 2019.

- How long can you store seeds?

A; some seeds you can only keep for a season, other for 10-20 years; it depends fully on the crop and of course on the conditions under which the seeds are being stored

- Has the corona crisis had a big impact on the seed industry?

A: Covid-19 has definitely had an impact, mostly on the cut flower branch – think we can all remember the enormous amounts of flowers that had to be destroyed. On the upside however, as Covid-19 hit at the beginning of the sowing season for the home gardener, we have seen quite an increase in sales of seeds for the Home gardener – worldwide

Takii Seeds in The Netherlands

- If I buy my Sahin seeds from Fontana Seeds, is the quality really much better than if I would buy my seeds at a big supermarket or department store?

A: All seeds from the Sahin brand have been tested for high germination, seeds have been checked to be true to type. Compared to supermarket packets, the perhaps somewhat higher price is worth all the pleasure you get from a successful sowing!

- What do you expect to happen in the future?

A: We believe that Covid-19 will have succeeded in the realisation in many people that it is important that we are able to maintain ourselves. With the sustainability being also a major issue plus the increased awareness of the dire straits our planet is in, we expect that more and more people will take up gardening at home: ‘every bit helps’

- Do you grow seeds in your own garden?

A: unfortunately all I have is a small balcony which is filled quite easily. I used to have an allotment garden which I will pick up again, one day when I have more time

- What is your favourite type of seed to grow and your favourite flower variety?

A: my favourite seeds to grow myself would be veggies, I love squash, green beans, herbs. My favourite flowers are Zinnia’s: they come in the most wonderfully bright colours and they last forever in a vase

- If you could choose 3 varieties out of your catalog, which ones would you choose?

A: only three? Yikes! I would have to go with our latest Nasturtium Baby Series: wonderfully compact plus flowers and foliage are edible! Next would be our California Poppies, Thai Silk series: one of the earliest flowering varieties each year and last but not least: Zinnia Dahliaflowered varieties: the colours are awesome and sooooooo easy to grow!

Thank you Irma for this fun Interview!

Head office Takii Seeds

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