Published on Monday, June 10, 2019
What comes to mind when you think of Hawaii? Sun, sand, and a tropical breeze? Yes, of course, we have all of that, but for those of us in the seed industry, we think CORN! Since the 1960s, Hawaii has served as a winter breeding location for many of the biggest players in the seed industry. With year-round favorable weather, abundant agricultural land, and familiar US shipping regulations, Hawaii offers unique advantages over alternative winter breeding locations.
In 2016, Beck’s jumped on the opportunity to invest in a Hawaii research station to expand their breeding capabilities. The site of interest was a former BASF farm location destined to close its doors and layoff numerous full-time employees until one fateful phone call.
The Beck’s Hawaii story began one day in mid-2016. At the time, Steve Lupkes was the manager of the BASF site on Kauai and had recently learned the news of its looming closure. This news came amidst the announcements of multiple mergers and acquisitions across the seed industry, all of which were having an impact in Hawaii.
Desperate to save his employees the pain of layoffs and eager to keep the land active in agriculture, Steve began exhausting his contacts within the industry rather than planning for his retirement. Call after call, Steve swallowed his aversion to phone conversations and explained the situation with the site, the land, and the employees — a turnkey operation for any company willing to make the investment.
It is no secret that Beck’s is a leader in the seed industry not only for our superior products and unparalleled customer service, but also for our willingness to take calculated risks in the name of innovation and adaptability. When Beck’s received the phone call from Steve, it was a gamechanger for the company: an opportunity to invest in American soil and ensure that our customers have access to the best genetics in a timely manner.
The Beck’s Hawaii Research Station has 10 full-time employees and farms more than 900 acres. Each Winter, 50 mainland-based Beck’s employees have traveled to Hawaii and joined forces with our site staff and up to 85 seasonal employees from around the world to hand pollinate, detassel, and harvest our fields. Our full-time staff is a mixture of Hawaii locals and mainland transplants all experienced in the research and production of corn hybrids. Across the board, we bring more than 150 years of combined experience in seed production and tropical agriculture to the company.
Locally, our team is known for our creative solutions to produce high-quality seed in the face of challenges. Growing in a tropical environment is not as easy as it sounds, but as Beck’s westernmost station, we have planted more than 450 acres of corn nurseries and shipped over 270 tons of seed back to the mainland to continue in the summer trials of the Beck’s breeding program and other third-party research programs around the world. This has been possible through Beck’s significant investment in upgrades to our equipment and adoption of the latest advances in precision agriculture technology.
Now after three winter cycles with Beck’s in Hawaii, we would like to honor Steve Lupkes for all that he has done to ensure a successful transition of our site, our land, and especially our employees. We owe him our gratitude for his dedication to agriculture in Hawaii and wish him the best of luck and relaxation in his retirement to Des Moines, Iowa. Mahalo and aloha, Steve!
Author: Sarah Thompson
Categories: CropTalk, 2019