Alumnus testimonial

Tim - Breeder and Researcher at Barenbrug

After Tim graduated from his master's in Plant Breeding, he did a PhD in the Biobased Economy group with the professor of Bioresources Breeding and Genetics, Luisa Trindade. There he worked for four years on the perennial grass species Miscanthus to improve its use as a biobased crop. He currently works in Barenbrug, a grass seed company, as manager of the research station in Wolfheze.

I think in many ways my education and PhD at Wageningen prepared me well for the challenges I face in my job.

Since you graduated, what kind of jobs did you have?
"After I graduated from the master's, I did a PhD in the Biobased Economy group of Luisa Trindade. There I worked for four years on the perennial grass species Miscanthus and improving its use a biobased crop."

What is your current job?
"Directly following the PhD I was hired by Barenbrug, a grass seed company, as a breeder and manager of the research station in Wolfheze. With any first job, the beginning can be challenging, as a lot of things are new and unknown and you have to try to gain an understanding of many things in a short period of time. Despite that, I felt that in my new job everything that I had learned in the PhD and the master's came together."

Is this what you always wanted to be? Or what has changed?
"Definitely. Ever since I heard about plant breeding, I have loved it. It is all about finding ways to get to improved varieties efficiently and there are so many different routes and so many different aspects that come together within that challenge: there is never a dull moment.

There is always something new to learn, some new method to test or a new way of selecting and then I get so exciting waiting for the results, looking at the analysis, hoping that you achieve what you aim for."

What are your future goals?
"When I look at how fast technology is changing and what opportunities that brings, I see so many opportunities. My goal is to learn more and more and staying creative in finding ways to test those technologies and apply them for my own breeding goals.

This way I want to make an impact and create successful varieties. Also in terms of future goals, I hope that I can contribute through plant breeding to help make our food and materials production more environmentally sustainable and perhaps even circular."

How do you contribute to a better world? What role did studying in Wageningen have to achieve this?
"In my current job as grass breeding for Barenbrug we are putting a lot of emphasis on creating varieties that will produce the same yield with less input or that are more drought stress-resilient. Grass is a major crop worldwide and is (or should be) the main source of feed for dairy and meat cows. It is an incredibly efficient and highly nutritious crop. Even in the Netherlands, where land prices are at a premium, over 60% of agricultural land is grassland.

Considering the huge importance of grass (also in urban green spaces and recreational purposes), I think that by improving our grass varieties in these aspects we can have an impact on the world. The funny thing is that when I think back on my studies, the way I set up nitrogen-use efficiency experiments and drought experiments relates directly back to what I learned in Wageningen." 

How did studying in Wageningen helped you overcome the challenges that you have encountered in your previous and/or current job?
"I think in many ways my education and PhD at Wageningen prepared me well for the challenges I face in my job. During my PhD, I spend a lot of time setting up experiments, organizing data, analysing it in different ways, doing statistical checks and those are key abilities you have to master as a breeder.

Some other things are maybe more coincidental, wherein my PhD I worked a lot with NIRS technology and one of the first big investments I did as manager of the research station in my current job is to buy a new NIRS machine. However, in a lot of ways, each job will come with its own particular set of challenges and not all can be prepared for during your education. You will just have to learn on the job. A good company will give you that trust and the room and opportunity to do so."

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