(March 26) LADERA RANCH, Calif. — A newly formed joint venture between Syngenta Seeds and Tanimura & Antle Inc. should ship between 3.5 million and 4.5 million cartons of seedless, personal-sized watermelons this year.
Dulcinea Farms LLC, which was formed in January, will market branded items such as the PureHeart miniature seedless watermelon and a new Tuscan-style cantaloupe.
As such, it takes over where Boise, Idaho-based New Produce Network left off. New Produce Network was owned by Syngenta, Tanimura & Antle, The Perishables Group and the Produce Exchange. It marketed about a million cartons of the PureHeart melons last year.
Syngenta and Tanimura & Antle, which were the biggest stakeholders in New Produce Network, decided to create a separate company to market the branded products, said Kevin Migdal, president of Dulcinea.
Financial details of the changes were not released.
Migdal had been general manager of New Produce Network, which he said was governed by a management committee rather than a traditional executive system. Dulcinea brings together the germ plasm experts at Syngenta and the growing expertise of Tanimura & Antle, Migdal said.
“This company is being run as a separate, free-standing company,” Migdal said. “We’ll have people in growing operations, new product development and sales and marketing. But this gives us people to interface with at Syngenta and Tanimura & Antle. They’ll act as advisers.”
Rick Antle, chief executive officer of Tanimura & Antle, said the project that resulted in the TrueHeart watermelon began several years ago and that progress necessitated the evolution from New Produce Network to Dulcinea Farms.
“It became apparent that we needed to streamline the operations to address future needs,” Antle said.
Antle said the creation of Dulcinea was important because it brings awareness of consumer demand all the way back to the seed.
Antle said there has long been a disconnect in agriculture between seed production and crop production, and that companies such as Syngenta and Tanimura & Antle recognize the importance of developing seeds to produce crops that will particularly appeal to consumers.
“One place we’ve done this previously is in celery,” Antle said. “We grow a proprietary variety and use genetics to grow a superior celery.”
However, consumers will see even greater differentiation in fruit such as Dulcinea’s PureHeart watermelon, which offer distinguishing and appealing flavors, textures and aromas upon which Dulcinea can capitalize, he said.
Dulcinea is in temporary quarters now, but by mid-April should be in its permanent home in Ladera Ranch, between San Diego and Los Angeles, Migdal said.
The new company probably will top out at about 25 employees scattered through an operations group, which will oversee growing, harvesting and distribution; a marketing group; and a sales entity, he said.
Robert Bassi, who had worked at Tanimura & Antle, will serve as director of operations. Christopher Grallert, who comes to Dulcinea from Syngenta, is director of sales. Keith Kato, who has worked in real estate as well as for companies such as Taco Bell, is director of finance. And Matt Goldthwaite, who comes to Dulcinea from ConAgra Foods, is marketing manager.
Dulcinea already is shipping its PureHeart melons, and Migdal said he expects the watermelons to be in 3,000 to 5,000 stores by the end of the year. The company’s second product, the sweet, Tuscan-style cantaloupe, will be available by mid-May.
Dulcinea already is looking at producing a third melon as well, he said.
PureHeart melons are a little bigger than a large grapefruit and are being marketed as a single-person melon. They are seedless and have a thin rind that generally is about one-eighth of an inch thick, Migdal said. They are the result of interest in a sweeter, more convenient melon, Migdal said.
The Tuscan-style cantaloupe is smaller, with green stripes that change color when the fruit is ripe.