The Faces Behind Technology: Wyffels

11:48AM Jul 17, 2019
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Seed companies invest billions in R&D annually to bring new genetics, traits and more to your farm. We want to introduce you to a few of the faces behind the innovations. Learn more about their story and the challenges they face. Here's the last of an eight-part series.

Like a shadow, Shane Meis followed his grandpa’s every step as he completed chores on the farm. Once he grew older he hung onto his grandpa’s every word, and he was finally allowed to complete some farm chores himself.

The summers Meis spent with his grandparents fostered a love for agriculture that he would someday turn into a career.

“I’ve always loved agriculture,” Meis says. “Growing up, many of my fondest memories were working on the farm at my grandparents. Ag has always been in my blood.”

It wasn’t until a high school science class that Meis honed his love for ag into what he expected would be a career. “I remember learning about genetics and plant breeding and the more I learned the more I decided it was a career I wanted to pursue.”

Today, he serves as the Wyffels director of research, a role he’s held for the past six years. He leads the company’s research efforts to help develop the strongest corn hybrids for customers—all while keeping an eye on the future of plant breeding technology.

“When I look at the field of plant breeding and biotech in general I think genome editing holds promise to be the next big thing,” he says. “I think early on it’s going to be best for traits controlled by a small number of genes, but over time we can use it to better understand the roles in individual genes for more complex traits.”

The biggest promise for the next step-change in yield and crop technology lies within the genetic advancements, not necessarily biotech, he adds. However, taking yields to the next level won’t be without challenges.

“The first thing we need to make sure we do is maintain genetic diversity for the long-term,” Meis says. “We’re in a highly competitive industry pursing short-term genetic gain—this is something we have to balance. We want to work with the germplasm that gives the best performance, but we don’t want to collapse what we have by overusing that specific germplasm.”

It's a breeding challenge he’s excited to tackle, and one that he’s aimed to fulfill in his nearly 20 years in the industry.

“I take the most pride in the commercial lineups we bring to our customers every year,” Meis explains. “It’s a combination of doing so many things, big and small, the right way. It’s an honor to be a part of this, and I take so much pride in what we’ve done so far.”

Stay tuned for more seed leader profiles in the coming days.

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The Faces Behind Technology: Wyffels