Abbott & Cobb, which bills itself as the largest independent breeder, producer and marketer of vegetable seed, has locations in key growing areas in the United States and Mexico. But its facility in McAllen, TX, gives it a particularly good strategic spot to serve its customers.
Rosie Aguirre, assistant vice president of sales and marketing for Mexico and the south-central United States, said, “From our Texas facility, we pride ourselves in servicing customers in Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and all of the eastern and central regions of Mexico.”
The company, which is headquartered in Feasterville, PA, but has facilities in Arizona, Florida and Mexico, in addition to Texas, is known for producing seeds to grow some of the very best products on the market, including beans, melons, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelon.
And in Texas, watermelon is a shining star for Abbott & Cobb.
“Everything is bigger in Texas, and that certainly is the case with our great watermelons grown here,” she said. “Texas produces some of the best watermelons because of the ideal growing conditions we have.”
Ms. Aguirre added that from McAllen, Abbott & Cobb is able to service all distributors in the Rio Grande Valley, many of which have growers in both Texas and Mexico. The location enables Abbott & Cobb representatives to visit customers on both sides of the border.
“And we are also lucky to receive product back into the United States from Mexico, where we can view it ourselves,” said Ms. Aguirre. “This is our best evaluation because we can see the shipping ability of our product, which is one of the final checks when selecting a variety that will qualify for and deserve our ‘SuperSeedless’ brand.”
Abbott & Cobb’s goal is to provide the best varieties for its customers, therefore research and product development are crucial in its operations.
“We have very knowledgeable breeders who continuously provide us with new varieties to trial,” said Ms. Aguirre. “Throughout the year we have a couple of breeders both in Texas and Mexico with continuous trials in our customers’ fields, searching for that ideal variety program.”
Asked about trends she has witnessed during the past five years, Ms. Aguirre responded, “Trends seem to come and go, but the one thing that is staying for us is selling plant programs. In the mid-1980s, we began a special program where we provided the seed and grew the plant for the customer, then sold it to them as a package. Today, this is a growing part of our business as we have done more and more of that. But the competition has jumped on board with this, so we have had to increase our plant programs at different locations to serve our customers. We have an exclusive ‘SSuperPlants’ program in cooperation with Speedling, that provides superior quality plants with enhanced features not available from any other plant program.”
In Texas, a robust economy and a prolonged drought have presented both challenges and opportunities for Abbott & Cobb, and the company has responded well to both.
“The Texas economy continues to thrive, and as this has happened we have seen agricultural land diminish and certain species completely disappear,” said Ms. Aguirre. “But we are blessed to have a great leader who saw change coming and provided us with great proprietary material that would lead the markets.”
She said that while watermelon leads Abbott & Cobb’s business in Texas — with triploids holding a large percentage in the state — the company is increasing its sweet corn production as well.
“Texas-grown has become increasingly important, and with our great sweet corn varieties, we look forward to continued growth in market share with our wide selection of varieties.”
With regard to the drought situation in the Lone Star State, Ms. Aguirre said, “We continue to work hard to always provide the best and most resistant varieties that will take the stresses brought on by extreme weather. We pride ourselves in having great material already, but we challenge ourselves every day to provide virus-resistant varieties that will hold up to new diseases that may come up.”
In addition to Ms. Aguirre, other key personnel in Abbott & Cobb’s McAllen office are Joe Chapa, who handles U.S. sales; Enrique Rodriguez, who handles Mexico sales; Joe Rodriguez, who is in product development; and Nancy Carranza, office manager.