Dutch agriculturist and seedsman Simon Groot, who started developing high-quality seeds in the Philippines, was awarded the prestigious 2019 World Food Prize for reinforcing small-scale agriculture and promoting vegetables to combat malnutrition.

Groot founded East-West Seed (EWS) in 1982, together with Filipino seed trader Benito Domingo, to resolve the low-quality yield of crops due to substandard and poorly adapted seeds in the country, resulting in low yields and eventually in poverty and malnutrition. 

Realizing the problem of farmers, the duo developed quality seeds that grows into high-value vegetable crops. Groot started with a small five-hectare farm outside Lipa City, Batangas, to begin research on locally-adaptive seeds and train local people as breeders and technicians which led to helping over 60 countries and over 20 million farmers. 

“I’m very grateful to receive this award. My own philosophy from 40 years ago was to deliver quality seeds to farmers and become their friend,” said Groot in his Laureate speech during a prestigious ceremony with international delegates and luminaries at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa. 

EWS initiated a knowledge transfer program (KTP) to strengthen consumer trust to farmers and further knowledge to understand and accommodate local needs and enhance agricultural practices in different countries.

KTP helps farmers improve their yields, reduce pesticide and water usage, and earn more for their produce. After EWS’ improvements in Southeast Asia, they are now looking to focus in Africa wherein they will study the poor quality of soil and techniques that will work on different areas of the region. 

The World Food Prize honors people who have advanced human life by increasing the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world. The ceremony was part of the 33rd World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium with the theme “Pax Agricultura.”