New Dutch seed breeder Axia starts with tomato variety trials this Summer


In the past few months, the goings-on at new breeding company Axia were almost mysterious, but now the doors are finally opened. The first tomato hybrids are to be tested at growers in late August. We might just see an entirely new Axia variety next year. But there is more news: eighteen months after the first plants went into the greenhouse, Axia is again expanding.

The location of Axia in Naaldwijk, opened in 2011

In his first week at Axia, head breeder Leo Braams combed both Holland and Belgium for as many different tomatoes as possible. “You want the widest possible gene pool,” he explains. “Hopefully that way you get a beautiful new variety.” A few years later, and the first line of hybrids proudly inhabits the Axia greenhouses in Naaldwijk. “Now the best varieties are selected and then the trials will begin around the end of August,” says Braams.

That’s not the only thing: the company is currently looking at whether it is possible to expand from 12,000 to 18,000 meters of glass. In addition, the current office in Delft will be swapped for a durable and ultra-modern office in Naaldwijk, one that includes a research laboratory for seed germination research and technology.

Alois and Sandor van Vliet

To stand out, Axia focuses on a variety in which not only the productivity is important, but that also offers a distinctive level of healthy ingredients and flavour. “Compared to the large companies, we are small, fast and innovative,” say founders and owners Sandor and Alois van Vliet. “The desire of the grower is central and the lines are short. This allows us to solve specific problems and respond quickly to opportunities.”

In spite of the company’s current success, the breeding process hasn’t been easy. Remarkable is the small brown cherry tomato with a sweet taste and a red tomato with a dark discoloration on the top. “He changes colour when in sunlight,” says Braams. “Do you think it will catch on? Most people don’t think so.” Commercially speaking, the processing of a particular race is barely profitable, explains Sandor van Vliet, especially for a start-up company. “But breeding is not only a combination of money and technology, but also of science and art. We like being creative.”

The Axia-team: Leo Braams, Renate van Vliet (daughter of Sandor), Alois van Vliet, Sandor van Vliet and Aida Rašić

Hybrides in corridor

The water tanks of the company are inside for hygiene. For each of the (now six) units a day’s supply is produced, so that it also can be watered when technical problems. The water area is ready for the forthcoming enlargement.

Axia works with a small boiler, without CHP. “We are simply too small,” says Alois.