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Nunhems invests in physical and personnel expansion

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | April 20, 2010
PARMA, ID -- In addition to its $15 million facility expansion at its complex here, seed giant Nunhems has also enlarged its Idaho staff to include Travis Estvold, newly named marketing and communication specialist for the Americas.

Mr. Estvold moves into the position previously held by Rebecca Catlett, a five-year employee of the seed company, who has taken on the role of global marketing and communications specialist, a job created in January 2009.

As Ms. Catlett oversees the marketing efforts of five regional specialists and 12 assistants worldwide, working on and confirming their processes, Mr. Estvold will focus his efforts on the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Brazil, and will also assist with efforts in New Zealand.

Ms. Catlett said in mid-March that her job involves 26 crops worldwide. "I am here to support [the crop specialists] in their processes and with their tools," she said, noting that the operation has implemented a new, cohesive database.

While she has been with Nunhems for five years, her seed industry experience encompasses 22 years and multiple crops. Mr. Estvold comes to his new job well equipped with a degree in marketing and communications.

Nunhems, a subsidiary of Bayer CropScience, specializes in vegetable genetics and services around the globe. Its crop portfolio includes leading varieties and brands of leeks, onions, carrots, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, lettuces, peppers and chicory. The company employs more than 1,400 people worldwide and has a presence in all major vegetable production areas.

Established in the mid-1970s, the Parma facility became part of the Nunhems organization with the acquisition of Sunseeds in 1997. Today, the primary Nunhems seed commodities produced in the United States are onions, carrots, watermelons and tomatoes, with the Parma facility accounting for more than 80 percent of the carrot and onion seeds used worldwide.

As the portfolio and production numbers increase, the Idaho facility is also expanding. Ground was broken Oct. 29, 2008, on the Caronex Project, and Mr. Estvold said that the facility will be finished by late August of this year. Through the physical expansion and technical upgrades at the Parma site, Nunhems has "laid the foundation for the sustainable growth of our vegetable seed business in the United States and worldwide," according to Joachim Schneider, head of the BioScience Business Unit at Bayer CropScience.

In his comments delivered during the groundbreaking ceremony, Dr. Schneider said that the objective of Nunhems' seed production in the United States "is to efficiently meet the needs of our customers in the future." Douwe Zijp, chief executive officer of Nunhems, said that the expansion includes new seed processing and storage facilities as well as upgrades in equipment.

"During this process, we [are doing] everything possible to minimize any disruption in our day-to-day activities," Mr. Zijp said.

The Parma site currently has 150 full-time employees, and the facility's footprint will be close to 62 acres when the expansion is complete.