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Seed production facility undergoing $11.2 million expansion

Celebrating the groundbreaking for Syngenta on Wednesday in Woodland are, from left, Scott Tefteller, Dan Fox and Ed Schatz from Syngenta; Kevin Vaziri, president of the Woodland Chamber of Commerce; and Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad. Courtesy photo

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From page A20 | November 18, 2012 | Leave Comment

Seed company Syngenta revealed plans to spend $11.2 million in an expansion of its facility in Woodland, once more proving Yolo County’s status as an epicenter of vegetable research, development and production.

Syngenta, a Switzerland-based company in the commercial agricultural seeds market, held a groundbreaking for the expansion on Wednesday. Details on the planned construction were discussed; including new greenhouses, specialized plant growth environments and an improved work space for development activities.

The additions and improvements to the facility at 21435 County Road 98, Woodland, are expected to be complete in 2014, according to Syngenta Site Manager Ed Schatz. The local headquarters will host cereal, corn and vegetable research and seed production.

“Syngenta is really proud to expand in Woodland, in Yolo County and in the Central Valley,” Schatz said. ”We look forward to continuing our story here for many years.”

Syngenta joins Monsanto in the collective of seed companies that have decided to invest in Yolo County locations. Monsanto announced it would spend $31 million to double the size of its Woodland headquarters in early September — slated for completion in August 2013.

Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad said Syngenta’s planned expansion is consistent with the industry’s steady growth within the region.

“Every year the Sacramento Business Journal lists the top-25 biotech companies, and usually 22 to 23 of them are in Yolo County,” Rexroad said. “It really centers around UC Davis. That’s where the talent comes from, in terms of the scientist training. It’s an agriculture-based college, so it just makes a lot of sense.”

Syngenta encourages internships from UCD whenever extra help is necessary, Schatz said, and occasionally hires those students after graduation. The company’s Woodland base has 30 full-time employees, and recruits approximately 60 part-time employees seasonally.

Schatz added that with the expansion of the local seed production facility — along with the 20 percent growth Syngenta estimates to see within the next five years — Yolo County’s economy has more opportunity to benefit in the future.

“There is a more immediate impact,” he explained. “The project itself will bring in construction workers from the surrounding community. Most of the suppliers are in the Sacramento or the Yolo County area.”

Once construction is finished, Syngenta’s facility will host a new research and development hub, the Woodland Center of Excellence. According to the company’s officials, the center will be unique for its emphasis in research on cucurbits — watermelons, melons and squash.

“It’s embracing change and embracing what we’re doing here at Syngenta,” said Dan Fox, global head of vegetable seed research and development. “This is a really important area for seed innovation and production, and therefore a great place to be.”

Fox mentioned during his speech at the groundbreaking ceremony that he has been impressed by the accomplishments of the local campus, which has operated on a limited budget.

“We’re really bringing the top scientists and top products in (this) space because Woodland has performed,” Fox said.

The vegetable seeds produced at Syngenta’s Yolo County facility will be shipped worldwide. Also, the research done at the Woodland Center of Excellence will be used to enhance crops internationally.

Scott Tefteller, head of the coastal commercial unit for Syngenta, expressed how important it is to continue research and find solutions to large-scale food production issues:

“The challenges associated with feeding a growing global population in an environmentally sustainable way require that we think differently about how we help growers create efficiencies and improve their productivity.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net.

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