In #theweekof, we get to have a look within the workweek of young professionals in Seed Valley.
Hello, I am Joost, 27 years old and I have been working as a Junior Researcher Seed Production Research at Enza Zaden in Enkhuizen since 2019. An international family company active in more than 30 vegetable crops.
As Junior Researcher, I deal with research that supports vegetable and seed production. Of course, I don’t do this by myself; there are four of us in the research team and we work together with the operational seed production department. That department produces seeds on a large scale, ready to be sold. My team is always working on different research projects. Throughout the year, we get enquiries, such as problems with pollen, plant balance or what could cause a fruit not to have enough seeds. We then look for the right solutions. I am happy to take you with me through my work week.
The way to Enza Zaden
I am originally from Oss and studied biology at Radboud University in Nijmegen, but I now live in Heerhugowaard. Not really nearby, but I really wanted to come and work here. Wondering how I ended up at Enza Zaden?
Through a student day…. So that’s how it can go! I told an employee that I wanted to do an internship abroad. He started asking around within the research teams and before I knew it I was off to Spain for 7 months! At the Almería location, I was involved in developing seedless watermelons. I had an amazing time there.
Enza Zaden was also enthusiastic, because after I graduated I was approached by one of their recruiters via LinkedIn! Soon after I went for an interview, I started as a Junior Researcher.
My tip for students: get out there! One interview got me a great internship and this job. Companies don’t always know where to find you, so it’s good to put yourself out there.
Day 1: Back from Peru
I have just returned from Peru and start back at the office in Enkhuizen this Monday morning. Today I am spending a day behind the computer to write up my experiences and share them with the team. Together with colleagues, I visited a production site where Enza Zaden is investigating how much fruit the Pepper plant can bear and maintain without compromising seed quality. It was good to see the site and the experiment. We also had a chance to talk to the colleagues there, where we exchanged a lot of knowledge.
The production specialist was like a walking encyclopedia, he could tell us everything about seed production of Sweet Pepper. It was great to meet him! It was a short but nice visit.
Day 2: Into the greenhouse on Tuesday
My job as a Junior Researcher varies a lot. As I mentioned earlier, we get research questions on all kinds of crops; from Tomatoes to Endive. It is up to us to find the right, implementable solution. The questions range from ‘What is the best harvest moment?’ to ‘What does a certain fungus in the soil do to production?’ To get to a solution, we do a lot of research. To do this, one minute I’m diving into the literature, the next I’m busy setting up an experiment behind my PC and then I’m behind the microscope in the lab again.
Sometimes, after an intensive experiment, we unfortunately do not find an answer to a problem. Then we dive back into the literature. If the solution really doesn’t exist (yet), we finish a project or put it on hold. Fortunately, we usually find the right solution!
Today I am in the greenhouse. Here we get to work harvesting Onions. I’ll tell you more about that in my next working day.
Day 3: Working with Onions
This morning my alarm clock went off early. Today, I am completing research at a research site in Zwaagdijk. We are investigating whether various biostimulants can improve onion growth.
There are 120 pots ready for harvesting. There are three onions in each pot. We take soil samples and then rinse out the soil. After that, we use tweezers to look for roots in the washed-out soil. When all those roots are rinsed out and dried well, it goes along to the lab. We hope the hypothesis is correct.
These days in the greenhouse are not mega complicated, but they are intensive and very precise work. We all spend 3 days on this. Time to get to work!
Day 4: My other work activities
Also on this Thursday, I am back to work in the greenhouse! If all goes well, we finish the project this afternoon and I can start working in the lab tomorrow.
In summer we are busy with experiments, in winter with data analysis from the studies. Besides this work, we also regularly visit conferences and attend various courses. This past summer, for instance, I visited several conferences in Prague and Vienna. I also get the chance to enthuse others about the profession. Last June, for instance, I represented my company at a career fair at my old university in Nijmegen. Very cool to do!
I have been working at Enza Zaden for three years now and I have learned a lot and grown a lot in my career here. I love learning and continuing to develop in my job. They give me the freedom to do so.
Day 5: Continuing the onion research
It’s Friday already! I work in two different labs. Today I am working in one of the labs to collect data. In the other lab, we are working with DNA. Unfortunately, I can’t take you there, phones are not allowed because of hygiene restrictions. The bacteria from a phone are a danger to the tests tthat take place there.
Today I am going to sort, weigh and code the harvest of root samples from the past few days. All the info will go into a large database, which we will analyse looking for correlations. If all goes well, in a few weeks we will know if and which biostimulant makes the onions grow better.
I think it’s very cool to be able to help improve seed quality and find solutions to problems as a researcher.
It’s been a busy but great week. Tonight I’m going for a walk to clear my head, my girlfriend can come along too ;).
Thanks for joining me during my work week! Together with my colleagues in Seed Valley, I work to ensure the global availability of healthy vegetables and colourful flowers. In doing so, we constantly face new challenges. The big question is: What will you do?
Or do you want to read more #intheweekof? Read #davidweek, assistent breeder radish at Hazera in Warmenhuizen.