Meet Michael Kester, Global Head of Syngenta Flowers
What was your role before becoming Global Head of Syngenta Flowers?
“I’ve had many roles during my working life within Syngenta and my last position was Commercial Unit Head, Benelux. My most relevant experience for my current role has been Head EAME for the Vegetable Seeds business. There are many similarities between Vegs seeds and Flowers, but also many differences. The flowers business is definitely more complex and much more colourful.”
What do you enjoy most in this role?
“The diversity in our portfolio, in our activities, our geographic spread, but, most of all, the passion of the Flowers community. I think we lost this a bit in past years, but it is coming back strongly.
“This was demonstrated during the Syngenta California Spring Trials (CAST). These were top notch; excellent plant quality, excellent displays, 10 new introductions and many good discussions with brokers and grower customers from all over the world. The entire North America team has been heavily involved and were rightfully proud of the success they created. The recent Spring Trials in the Netherlands in Andijk were another great example of a highly successful event with many new introductions for Europe. The recent success in launching Imara® is another remarkable accomplishment. So we can all believe in the future again as we have a lot of innovation that will help us to grow.
“My personal motivation is sparked by the many opportunities we have as Syngenta Flowers. We have a great portfolio and pipeline; strong professional teams in the Regions, a good access to markets everywhere, and a well-established and trusted Syngenta Flowers brand, so we have all it takes to re-establish ourselves as one of the leaders in the industry.”
What do you love most about working in horticulture?
“The connection with life. When we talk about vegetables or flowers, we talk about things that are really important for our quality of life. The plants of our varieties grown from seed are impressive in quality, reliability, productivity and they look or taste good too! We are making a difference with everything we do, for the grower and for the consumer. The horticultural industry has become very international and this part I really like. It requires a lot of travel, sure, but it gives me the opportunity to get involved in the different markets; from a highly consolidated market in the US to markets that are just starting, like in China.”
Tell us a little more about your background.
“I am a son of a vegetable grower in the Netherlands who became a horticultural engineer. From a very young age, I have been focused on how things work and how to improve efficiency, in order to do things better with less effort or waste. I also like to win, but in a way that everyone enjoys the game and this also applies in business.
“I started within the company as an experimental officer doing field trials with agrochemicals and growth regulators in top fruit and horticultural crops. During those days, we developed Bonzi and I did many of those trials. Later, I changed to the commercial side and became Head of Marketing in the Netherlands. Then I got the opportunity to work abroad for 17 years in general management positions in Egypt and Sudan, North and West Africa, the German-speaking countries in Europe, Latin America South and Japan. Returning to the Netherlands, I became Regional Head, Vegetable Seeds, and later Commercial Unit Head Benelux, before taking on my current role in Flowers.”
Are you a gardener yourself?
“Yes, I am a keen hobby gardener and this year I’ve planted quite a few Calliope® Dark Red in my garden. I enjoy the abundance of the Calliope® flowers very much. The violas are in full bloom at the moment and my Sunfinity sunflowers are already pinched and will be another highlight later in the summer.
“I also have a small greenhouse and a tiny vegetable garden. It’s fun to grow some different types of tomatoes, a few heads of lettuce, some broad beans, some radish and strawberries.”
What is your favourite flower and why?
“The peony is my favourite. It is a real seasonal flower and it blooms around this time of year – around my birthday.”