Portugese grower David Z. Yarkoni

What kind of company do you have?

”My wife Tali and I breed gerberas and produce young gerbera plants. It is our life’s work – we’ve been doing this for the past 25 years. We’ve been expanding our assortment every year. This year, we’re launching a salmon gerbera. You won’t find that colour anywhere else. If you breed a colour like that, and you get a good quality flower, it gives great professional satisfaction. Which, if all goes well, is followed by commercial satisfaction. We really love our work. We consider it a great privilege to be able to do this.”

What are your goals?

”Our focus is on (the consistency of) colour, quality, productivity, vase life, stem length as well as resistance to pests and diseases. We’ve got around 60 to 70 varieties now. It does happen that we come up with a variety which we consider an improvement, but the market rejects it. Sometimes the competitor is better, and sometimes the competitor’s marketing is better. With breeding, it’s always hard to make choices for the future. Breeding is a long process. From crossing to commercialisation takes about seven years. The entire process of crossing, selecting, propagating and testing.”

Who are your customers?

”Professional growers in Portugal, Spain and India. India is a big market, everything is huge there. And flowers are important in Indian culture, especially in Hinduism. The propagation of our gerberas takes place in India too, in an in vitro lab. Labour is cheaper over there. We don’t supply to any Dutch growers. They’re competitive, but when push comes to shove, they end up choosing Dutch breeders. I can understand that. And I actually think that that’s okay. It’s not our objective to conquer the entire world. There’s a saying in Portuguese that the sun shines for everyone, not just for you. But we’re lucky – we get lots of sunshine in Portugal.”

Have you always worked in floriculture?

”I’m originally from Israel and my university education had to do with plants and flowers. I got a job with Aviv, where I focused on flower exports to the auction in the Netherlands. After a while, my wife and I went to Portugal. The plan was to stay for a year, but we’ve been here for thirty years now. My wife’s educational background is in plant breeding, so we make a good team. And that’s the key to our success.”

What do you do when you aren’t working?

”We don’t have any free time, we’re always working – no, just kidding. We’ve got children and grandchildren and hobbies like gardening, sports and travelling.”

Are any of the children likely successors?

”My son works at the university. He conducts research into genetic modification, nothing in relation to plants and flowers. My daughter is an architect. They have to make their own choices. My children have their own dreams. And that’s good – we’re planning to continue for another fifty years anyway. So we’re not looking for successors yet. Que sera sera.”

About: David Z. Yarkoni

Company: Montiplanta

Crops: Gerbera breeding and young plant production

Location: Near Lisbon, Portugal