Two weeks after it went live at www.OnionExperience.com, the virtual Onion Idea Exchange – iX for short – produced by Seminis Vegetable Seeds Inc. in Donna, TX, continues to gain traction with an audience that spans the spectrum from growers all the way to consumers.
In response to restrictions brought on by COVID-19, the new website, with its multiple components and contributors, this year replaces the usual Rio Grande Valley mid-April tours Seminis hosted for years. Those real-life tours provided participants tours of onion fields and sessions presented by breeders, researchers and other ag/onion industry experts; the virtual iX, with concise video visits produced on mobile devices by Seminis team members, also take participants into the Donna Research Station’s fields and showcase topics such as crop protection, seed treatments, agricultural research, resource management and mechanical innovation.
Response has been positive, according to Seminis rep Emily Standley. Emily, along with Onion Breeder Franco Asoro, followed up on the site’s May 21 launch, telling OnionBusiness.com communication and meeting participants’ needs remain key to the site’s intent.
“While we could not bring everyone together on the field, innovation and collaboration are key in agriculture, now more than ever,” Emily said on June 8. “The website offers growers all the same information they would have received in the field. We have been pleased by the response from our growers, and look forward to ongoing conversations.”
Franco, whose hourlong onion-breeding webinar is linked to the website, said viewers are responding well to the presentation. “What Seminis did made our field day open to more people [than would attend a traditional event],” he said. “When we have an in-person event, it comes closer to harvest time, and there are competing events then.” He added that virtual events such as the Onion iX “are going to be part of our normal now.”
He added, “Conversations are always important, and the webinar has had good attendance and good questions arising.” Commercial varieties are highlighted, including the new Alba Blanco white and the Hornet yellow, both short-day onions.
Franco, who earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding from Iowa State, started his career in onion breeding in 2015 with Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018. He is based in Woodland, CA, where he specializes in short-days varieties. Noting the rapid advancements in technology across the entire ag/crop spectrum, Franco said DNA/molecular markers make onion breeding a faster process than it was even five years ago. New varieties are the happy result.
“To create successful short- and -mid-day onions, our breeders and growers work together, pulling in consumer demands, latest technology and best breeding practices to bring forth popular onion varieties, such as Alba Blanca, which is a fan favorite. Alba Blanca delivers an opportunity for growers to be first to market and reduce water usage during production and is well adapted to the white onion markets of Mexico, Southern Texas, New Mexico and California,” Franco said.
Emily said the event is eliciting “good feedback from our onion growers.” She added, “We were hoping to have 80-100 participants, and we’ve had six times that [since the site was launched].”
And, she said, “Over 600 individual visits have been made to the website” by growers, consumers and others. “I just made a presentation to a group of dieticians,” Emily added.
The range of topics on the site and in the virtual tour is expansive, and Emily said seed treatment and root study are two subjects that have engaged growers in particular, creating a “logical flow to the other videos.” The upshot, she said, is that Seminis can still provide a “resource to our growers during a time of pandemic.”
She said, “We are proud of our growers and try to show the varieties and technology – the compatibility of the decisions farmers make and the dialogue we have that helps us help them.”
For a first-hand view, visit http://www.onionexperience.com/. Among the links are the Breeder Webinar at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7SextTkMOE&feature=youtu.be; a downloaded commercial variety brochure at http://onionexperience.com/tx-en/commercial-offerings/; a yield demo at
http://onionexperience.com/tx-en/yield-demo/; early varieties at http://www.onionexperience.com/tx-en/fifo/; seed treatment at http://www.onionexperience.com/tx-en/seed-treatments/; disease and field management at http://www.onionexperience.com/tx-en/disease-management/; water management http://www.onionexperience.com/tx-en/water-management/; automation demos at http://www.onionexperience.com/tx-en/automation-demos/; and a lively
Consumer Corner at http://www.onionexperience.com/tx-en/consumers/.
The Consumer Corner includes Onions 101, which is a six-video look at onions from seed to plate; Onion Trivia [try your hand – you might not know everything…]; and From the Field, an onion primer that looks at plant development, harvest, packing and more.
Emily said, “Providing a one-stop location for our growers to learn and hear from our key vendors, was an important factor in the website, to ensure we continue to provide solutions beyond the seeds. While we work directly with growers and distributors, we understand the importance of listening to and educating consumers on where and how their onion got to their table. Our Consumer Corner did just that.”