Organic Cultivation – From Dream to Reality

Organic Cultivation

From Dream to Reality

Interview with Dr. Isaac Nir, Founder and Owner 

Sales in the hobby and semi-professional markets, and particularly in the home gardening sector, have skyrocketed this “Covid-19 year” showing a 30% increase of consumption. Gardening is actually an escape for people who are forced to remain close to home for an extended time. Gardening combines many advantages – it provides occupation, constitutes therapy and finally rewards with edible produce. In an era of growing vegetables and herbs for private consumption, the organic aspect is increasingly important since it involves food that we consume, which we expect to be healthy and pure.

Genesis Seeds is among the pioneering companies that produce organic vegetables and herb seeds. We met with Dr. Isaac Nir, the company’s co-founder, to hear about the company’s founding principles, of which the organic aspect is a basic tenet.

Isaac says that the company has set several goals for itself and has realized them all:

The first aim was to focus on organic production. The second – To place its development center in the Negev desert. The third – To rely on in-house production of seeds in Israel, without purchasing seeds from abroad; and fourth, to sell seeds to wholesalers (distributors and seed companies) rather than directly to growers.

Prior to establishing the company, Isaac dealt with planning and development of agricultural projects in Israel and abroad, and while doing so was exposed to the damage inflicted on the soil as a result of intensive agricultural production which changed it from a living habitat of active essential organisms into an inert habitat that served primarily to anchor plants. In addition, he studied the damage arising from drainage of nitrates, fertilizer remnants and pesticides into the ground water.

In the early days (1996) Genesis Seeds staff had already attempted to involve the new organic agriculture, because they had realized it would eventually become important, sustainable agriculture. The company believed that organic management would permit a better control over nutrition, water consumption, and pesticide usage along with a positive effect on the environment.

Isaac tells us about the company’s history: “My partners and my dear departed friend, Emanuel (Manny) Shemin from the U.S., shared my enthusiasm for the direction we chose to go and for the name we gave the company – Genesis Seeds.” Over the years, this name came to be well identified in the organic sector.  

The decision to establish the company in Ashalim, Ramat HaNegev, Isaac explains, was intended to build an agricultural plant in Israel’s desert, so it would no longer be known as a place to buy “expensive water cheaply,” and would provide good, interesting livelihood for local residents. “That’s how we succeeded in making the desert bloom.”

Initially, Genesis Seeds didn’t stock Intellectual Property (IP) varieties. Isaac went on to explain: “We based ourselves on a broad list of Open Pollination (OP) varieties for the hobby market. Annually, we created over 350 varieties of quality herbs, flowers and vegetables, which paved our way into the very heart of the seeds business.”

“At first, production of organic seeds was received as an oxymoron, since there is no actual genetic difference between regular and organic seeds, but the realization sank in slowly that if all inputs are organic, it is also necessary to begin with organic seeds that contain advantages of acquired resistances while protecting environment health. Unique organic varieties also serve regular growers very successfully.”

In order to secure the future, the company built two organic R & D stations, in the Negev and the Galilee, dealing both with development of agro-technical knowledge and with cultivating new varieties. Over the years, many varieties (of basil, oregano, stevia, melon, cucumber, artichoke, pepper, tomato, zucchini, etc.), were developed by the company, in cooperation with research institutes.

Since the herb sector (mainly basil) is marginal for most leading seed companies, Genesis Seeds decided to focus on developing and producing unique basil cultivars, which currently constitute more than 50% of the company’s sales. This achievement resulted from a breeding collaboration between Genesis Seeds, the Volcani Institute (Neve Ya’ar) and Bar-Ilan University, which gave birth to several unique cultivars on a global level. The range of basils that was developed cover all aspects of basil cultivation: fresh cut branches from the Open-field or Greenhouses, potted products for supermarkets or nurseries and even for pesto sauce factories. These varieties combine agro-technical traits – shape, color, growth rate, uniformity, together with biochemical traits – aroma and disease resistance. Research on basil continues full speed in additional directions that can help growers, such as: cold resistance, improved shelf-life and on-going strengthening of resistance.

The organic sector in agriculture is flourishing quickly world-wide at an annual rate of 20-25%, particularly in North America and the European Common Market, headed by Germany and Scandinavia. Awakened interest in organic production is also notable in developing countries in the East, Africa and Australia.

Appreciating the value of organic farming for environmental health has led Western governments to encourage conversion of land use for organic agriculture. Another aspect of organic plants’ success is the establishment of trust between seed producers and growers, so that the end products’ quality gains consumer trust. They will then return to purchase organic products according to their satisfaction with product characteristics. In the breeding process, Genesis pays special attention to traits such as – appearance, flavor and consistency. Just being organic isn’t enough.

As noted, during the Covid-19 period there was a significant increase in the hobby and semi-professional growing areas that also positively influenced company sales by about 30%. In the first quarter of 2021 sales continued to grow by more than 40%. Most of the recorded growth is in new basil varieties, that are resistant to downy mildew.

Genesis is a family owned company that has continued successfully for several generations, aspiring to remain both a family and an Israeli enterprise. The company’s CEO is Shai Nir, who together with his father Isaac and its dedicated professional staff, are moving the company toward a new decade, under the motto of a gradual transition from the hobby department to the professional division.

The Company’s challenge for the near future is to continue breeding hybrid basils and cucumbers with desirable traits of resistance to Fusarium and downy-mildew, and to identify additional opportunities in the herb, vegetable and flower sectors that aren’t held by large companies. Thus, the company signals its desire to preserve its organic niche status, while developing and marketing a unique selection of quality seeds.


Please visit our product pages or download our latest product catalog.

Sales in the hobby and semi-professional markets, and particularly in the home gardening sector, have skyrocketed this “Covid-19 year” showing a 30% increase of consumption. Gardening is actually an escape for people who are forced to remain close to home for an extended time. Gardening combines many advantages – it provides occupation, constitutes therapy and finally rewards with edible produce. In an era of growing vegetables and herbs for private consumption, the organic aspect is increasingly important since it involves food that we consume, which we expect to be healthy and pure.

Genesis Seeds is among the pioneering companies that produce organic vegetables and herb seeds. We met with Dr. Isaac Nir, the company’s co-founder, to hear about the company’s founding principles, of which the organic aspect is a basic tenet.

Isaac says that the company has set several goals for itself and has realized them all:

The first aim was to focus on organic production. The second – To place its development center in the Negev desert. The third – To rely on in-house production of seeds in Israel, without purchasing seeds from abroad; and fourth, to sell seeds to wholesalers (distributors and seed companies) rather than directly to growers.

Prior to establishing the company, Isaac dealt with planning and development of agricultural projects in Israel and abroad, and while doing so was exposed to the damage inflicted on the soil as a result of intensive agricultural production which changed it from a living habitat of active essential organisms into an inert habitat that served primarily to anchor plants. In addition, he studied the damage arising from drainage of nitrates, fertilizer remnants and pesticides into the ground water.

In the early days (1996) Genesis Seeds staff had already attempted to involve the new organic agriculture, because they had realized it would eventually become important, sustainable agriculture. The company believed that organic management would permit a better control over nutrition, water consumption, and pesticide usage along with a positive effect on the environment.

Isaac tells us about the company’s history: “My partners and my dear departed friend, Emanuel (Manny) Shemin from the U.S., shared my enthusiasm for the direction we chose to go and for the name we gave the company – Genesis Seeds.” Over the years, this name came to be well identified in the organic sector.  

The decision to establish the company in Ashalim, Ramat HaNegev, Isaac explains, was intended to build an agricultural plant in Israel’s desert, so it would no longer be known as a place to buy “expensive water cheaply,” and would provide good, interesting livelihood for local residents. “That’s how we succeeded in making the desert bloom.”

Initially, Genesis Seeds didn’t stock Intellectual Property (IP) varieties. Isaac went on to explain: “We based ourselves on a broad list of Open Pollination (OP) varieties for the hobby market. Annually, we created over 350 varieties of quality herbsflowers and vegetables, which paved our way into the very heart of the seeds business.”

“At first, production of organic seeds was received as an oxymoron, since there is no actual genetic difference between regular and organic seeds, but the realization sank in slowly that if all inputs are organic, it is also necessary to begin with organic seeds that contain advantages of acquired resistances while protecting environment health. Unique organic varieties also serve regular growers very successfully.”

In order to secure the future, the company built two organic R & D stations, in the Negev and the Galilee, dealing both with development of agro-technical knowledge and with cultivating new varieties. Over the years, many varieties (of basiloreganosteviameloncucumberartichokepeppertomatozucchini, etc.), were developed by the company, in cooperation with research institutes.

Since the herb sector (mainly basil) is marginal for most leading seed companies, Genesis Seeds decided to focus on developing and producing unique basil cultivars, which currently constitute more than 50% of the company’s sales. This achievement resulted from a breeding collaboration between Genesis Seeds, the Volcani Institute (Neve Ya’ar) and Bar-Ilan University, which gave birth to several unique cultivars on a global level. The range of basils that was developed cover all aspects of basil cultivation: fresh cut branches from the Open-field or Greenhouses, potted products for supermarkets or nurseries and even for pesto sauce factories. These varieties combine agro-technical traits – shape, color, growth rate, uniformity, together with biochemical traits – aroma and disease resistance. Research on basil continues full speed in additional directions that can help growers, such as: cold resistance, improved shelf-life and on-going strengthening of resistance.

The organic sector in agriculture is flourishing quickly world-wide at an annual rate of 20-25%, particularly in North America and the European Common Market, headed by Germany and Scandinavia. Awakened interest in organic production is also notable in developing countries in the East, Africa and Australia.

Appreciating the value of organic farming for environmental health has led Western governments to encourage conversion of land use for organic agriculture. Another aspect of organic plants’ success is the establishment of trust between seed producers and growers, so that the end products’ quality gains consumer trust. They will then return to purchase organic products according to their satisfaction with product characteristics. In the breeding process, Genesis pays special attention to traits such as – appearance, flavor and consistency. Just being organic isn’t enough.

As noted, during the Covid-19 period there was a significant increase in the hobby and semi-professional growing areas that also positively influenced company sales by about 30%. In the first quarter of 2021 sales continued to grow by more than 40%. Most of the recorded growth is in new basil varieties, that are resistant to downy mildew.

Genesis is a family owned company that has continued successfully for several generations, aspiring to remain both a family and an Israeli enterprise. The company’s CEO is Shai Nir, who together with his father Isaac and its dedicated professional staff, are moving the company toward a new decade, under the motto of a gradual transition from the hobby department to the professional division.

The Company’s challenge for the near future is to continue breeding hybrid basils and cucumbers with desirable traits of resistance to Fusarium and downy-mildew, and to identify additional opportunities in the herbvegetable and flower sectors that aren’t held by large companies. Thus, the company signals its desire to preserve its organic niche status, while developing and marketing a unique selection of quality seeds.


Please visit our product pages or download our latest product catalog.

Sales in the hobby and semi-professional markets, and particularly in the home gardening sector, have skyrocketed this “Covid-19 year” showing a 30% increase of consumption. Gardening is actually an escape for people who are forced to remain close to home for an extended time. Gardening combines many advantages – it provides occupation, constitutes therapy and finally rewards with edible produce. In an era of growing vegetables and herbs for private consumption, the organic aspect is increasingly important since it involves food that we consume, which we expect to be healthy and pure.

Genesis Seeds is among the pioneering companies that produce organic vegetables and herb seeds. We met with Dr. Isaac Nir, the company’s co-founder, to hear about the company’s founding principles, of which the organic aspect is a basic tenet.

Isaac says that the company has set several goals for itself and has realized them all:

The first aim was to focus on organic production. The second – To place its development center in the Negev desert. The third – To rely on in-house production of seeds in Israel, without purchasing seeds from abroad; and fourth, to sell seeds to wholesalers (distributors and seed companies) rather than directly to growers.

Prior to establishing the company, Isaac dealt with planning and development of agricultural projects in Israel and abroad, and while doing so was exposed to the damage inflicted on the soil as a result of intensive agricultural production which changed it from a living habitat of active essential organisms into an inert habitat that served primarily to anchor plants. In addition, he studied the damage arising from drainage of nitrates, fertilizer remnants and pesticides into the ground water.

In the early days (1996) Genesis Seeds staff had already attempted to involve the new organic agriculture, because they had realized it would eventually become important, sustainable agriculture. The company believed that organic management would permit a better control over nutrition, water consumption, and pesticide usage along with a positive effect on the environment.

Isaac tells us about the company’s history: “My partners and my dear departed friend, Emanuel (Manny) Shemin from the U.S., shared my enthusiasm for the direction we chose to go and for the name we gave the company – Genesis Seeds.” Over the years, this name came to be well identified in the organic sector.  

The decision to establish the company in Ashalim, Ramat HaNegev, Isaac explains, was intended to build an agricultural plant in Israel’s desert, so it would no longer be known as a place to buy “expensive water cheaply,” and would provide good, interesting livelihood for local residents. “That’s how we succeeded in making the desert bloom.”

Initially, Genesis Seeds didn’t stock Intellectual Property (IP) varieties. Isaac went on to explain: “We based ourselves on a broad list of Open Pollination (OP) varieties for the hobby market. Annually, we created over 350 varieties of quality herbsflowers and vegetables, which paved our way into the very heart of the seeds business.”

“At first, production of organic seeds was received as an oxymoron, since there is no actual genetic difference between regular and organic seeds, but the realization sank in slowly that if all inputs are organic, it is also necessary to begin with organic seeds that contain advantages of acquired resistances while protecting environment health. Unique organic varieties also serve regular growers very successfully.”

In order to secure the future, the company built two organic R & D stations, in the Negev and the Galilee, dealing both with development of agro-technical knowledge and with cultivating new varieties. Over the years, many varieties (of basiloreganosteviameloncucumberartichokepeppertomatozucchini, etc.), were developed by the company, in cooperation with research institutes.

Since the herb sector (mainly basil) is marginal for most leading seed companies, Genesis Seeds decided to focus on developing and producing unique basil cultivars, which currently constitute more than 50% of the company’s sales. This achievement resulted from a breeding collaboration between Genesis Seeds, the Volcani Institute (Neve Ya’ar) and Bar-Ilan University, which gave birth to several unique cultivars on a global level. The range of basils that was developed cover all aspects of basil cultivation: fresh cut branches from the Open-field or Greenhouses, potted products for supermarkets or nurseries and even for pesto sauce factories. These varieties combine agro-technical traits – shape, color, growth rate, uniformity, together with biochemical traits – aroma and disease resistance. Research on basil continues full speed in additional directions that can help growers, such as: cold resistance, improved shelf-life and on-going strengthening of resistance.

The organic sector in agriculture is flourishing quickly world-wide at an annual rate of 20-25%, particularly in North America and the European Common Market, headed by Germany and Scandinavia. Awakened interest in organic production is also notable in developing countries in the East, Africa and Australia.

Appreciating the value of organic farming for environmental health has led Western governments to encourage conversion of land use for organic agriculture. Another aspect of organic plants’ success is the establishment of trust between seed producers and growers, so that the end products’ quality gains consumer trust. They will then return to purchase organic products according to their satisfaction with product characteristics. In the breeding process, Genesis pays special attention to traits such as – appearance, flavor and consistency. Just being organic isn’t enough.

As noted, during the Covid-19 period there was a significant increase in the hobby and semi-professional growing areas that also positively influenced company sales by about 30%. In the first quarter of 2021 sales continued to grow by more than 40%. Most of the recorded growth is in new basil varieties, that are resistant to downy mildew.

Genesis is a family owned company that has continued successfully for several generations, aspiring to remain both a family and an Israeli enterprise. The company’s CEO is Shai Nir, who together with his father Isaac and its dedicated professional staff, are moving the company toward a new decade, under the motto of a gradual transition from the hobby department to the professional division.

The Company’s challenge for the near future is to continue breeding hybrid basils and cucumbers with desirable traits of resistance to Fusarium and downy-mildew, and to identify additional opportunities in the herbvegetable and flower sectors that aren’t held by large companies. Thus, the company signals its desire to preserve its organic niche status, while developing and marketing a unique selection of quality seeds.


Please visit our product pages or download our latest product catalog.

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All the way to Prospera ®

All the way to Prospera®​

The brand of downy mildew resistant basils​

Interview with Dr. Yariv Ben-Naim

Sweet basil is one of the most widely used herbs in the kitchens world-wide. Israel, as a major exporter of herbs to Europe, is a large grower of Basil. In 2012 Israel’s basil sector was hit, for the first time, with a new leaf fungus called Downy-Mildew (Peronospora). The damage was so heavy that it was defined as an epidemic. This disease had spread through Europe and the U.S. several years earlier, and was found on basil plants in Israeli greenhouses. The disease symptoms are expressed as deformation and yellowing of leaves, and appearance of dark spores on the lower side of the leaves. When symptoms advance, the leaves turn brown and fall off. This disease is spread quickly via airborne spores, which in turn might cause a total collapse of the entire plot, and even spread onto adjacent basil fields.

Downy-mildew is causing extensive damages to the herbs export industry, and farmers find it difficult to manage the crop by pesticides use, while meeting the stringent export pesticide standards. Those challenges raised the urgent need to find a rapid, chemical-free solution for the problem.

Genesis-Seeds is an Israeli Company, specialized in producing basil seeds on a global scale, has taken on the challenge and invested in a research to find a solution to Downy-mildew. The research began in 2015 and was conducted by a team of phytopathology experts directed by Prof. Yigal Cohen and Dr. Yariv Ben-Naim from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. As Dr. Ben-Naim says: “we entered into a long and complicated process which began with an attempt to locate genetic sources of resistance. To that end, we screened hundreds of wild species from seed banks around the world. At the end of that year, we had a source of resistance from Africa, which we decided to hybridize with a sweet Italian cultivar in order to attain a commercial product.”

Despite the difficulties the research team had encountered, eventually a few hybrid plants that contained the gene responsible for resistance were discovered. Those few plants initiated an intensive breeding project that led, for the first time, to a sweet basil cultivar that possesses a resistance gene for Downy-mildew. Dr. Ben-Naim continues: “Two years later, together with Genesis-Seeds, we developed a product which was named Prospera®. This variety met all the strict market requirements, with excellent flavor and aroma and overall appearance. Since 2019 Genesis-Seeds has sold the Prospera® variety in Israel and abroad. This year, additional varieties have joined the Prospera® product series, 2 varieties for the pot market (one with large leaves and one with a smaller leaf), and an additional ‘Italian large-leaf’ type which is much preferred in the American market.

The company currently markets these four products under the Prospera® brand name. However, the development team isn’t resting on its laurels, and is engaged in expanding the Prospera collection with additional varieties such as Red Basil, Thai, as well as a combination of new sources of resistance to downy-mildew. These products will enable a foothold in new global markets, with broader resistance coverage for various potential strains of downy-mildew worldwide.

Another characteristic familiar to growers is basil’s sensitivity to cold, both in the field as well as while refrigerated post-harvest. Based on the successful cooperation between Genesis-Seeds and the researchers, the team is currently breeding varieties with higher cold tolerance. In this framework they are beginning to combine genes of cold tolerant wild basil species (e.g., a plant collected from the high grounds of Mount Kilimanjaro). According to Dr. Ben-Naim, “Basil comes from Africa and likes heat. The winter season is a growing obstacle worldwide for growers who don’t use heated facilities. We try to implement genes from wild species to provide broader tolerance to Sweet Basil, so that farmers will be able to extend their growing season into the winter, and to export during the period when basil prices are high in most markets.” In another project, the team is trying to create a cultivar with resistance to aphids, thereby contributing to both consumers’ and the environment health with limited pesticide spraying of crops. However, it’s important to understand that the development process takes years and never really ends, since new varieties have to be adapted to different growing zones, to new epidemics and sometimes to new market trends that change from time to time.

Dr. Ben-Naim concludes: “Together with the breeding team of Genesis Seeds, today we are proud parents of highly innovative basil products. We’ve learned how to take a product with a long heritage such as the Basil, and to conduct a non GMO process in order to adapt it to changing market demands, whatever they may be.” 

Sweet basil is one of the most widely used herbs in the kitchens world-wide. Israel, as a major exporter of herbs to Europe, is a large grower of Basil. In 2012 Israel’s basil sector was hit, for the first time, with a new leaf fungus called Downy-Mildew (Peronospora). 

All The Way To Prospera

The damage was so heavy that it was defined as an epidemic. This disease had spread through Europe and the U.S. several years earlier, and was found on basil plants in Israeli greenhouses. The disease symptoms are expressed as deformation and yellowing of leaves, and appearance of dark spores on the lower side of the leaves. When symptoms advance, the leaves turn brown and fall off. This disease is spread quickly via airborne spores, which in turn might cause a total collapse of the entire plot, and even spread onto adjacent basil fields.

Downy-mildew is causing extensive damages to the herbs export industry, and farmers find it difficult to manage the crop by pesticides use, while meeting the stringent export pesticide standards. Those challenges raised the urgent need to find a rapid, chemical-free solution for the problem.

All The Way To Prospera

Genesis-Seeds is an Israeli Company, specialized in producing basil seeds on a global scale, has taken on the challenge and invested in a research to find a solution to Downy-mildew. The research began in 2015 and was conducted by a team of phytopathology experts directed by Prof. Yigal Cohen and Dr. Yariv Ben-Naim from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. As Dr. Ben-Naim says: “we entered into a long and complicated process which began with an attempt to locate genetic sources of resistance. To that end, we screened hundreds of wild species from seed banks around the world. At the end of that year, we had a source of resistance from Africa, which we decided to hybridize with a sweet Italian cultivar in order to attain a commercial product.”

Despite the difficulties the research team had encountered, eventually a few hybrid plants that contained the gene responsible for resistance were discovered. Those few plants initiated an intensive breeding project that led, for the first time, to a sweet basil cultivar that possesses a resistance gene for Downy-mildew. Dr. Ben-Naim continues: “Two years later, together with Genesis-Seeds, we developed a product which was named Prospera®. This variety met all the strict market requirements, with excellent flavor and aroma and overall appearance. Since 2019 Genesis-Seeds has sold the Prospera® variety in Israel and abroad. This year, additional varieties have joined the Prospera® product series, 2 varieties for the pot market (one with large leaves and one with a smaller leaf), and an additional ‘Italian large-leaf’ type which is much preferred in the American market.

The company currently markets these four products under the Prospera® brand name. However, the development team isn’t resting on its laurels, and is engaged in expanding the Prospera collection with additional varieties such as Red Basil, Thai, as well as a combination of new sources of resistance to downy-mildew. These products will enable a foothold in new global markets, with broader resistance coverage for various potential strains of downy-mildew worldwide.

Another characteristic familiar to growers is basil’s sensitivity to cold, both in the field as well as while refrigerated post-harvest. Based on the successful cooperation between Genesis-Seeds and the researchers, the team is currently breeding varieties with higher cold tolerance. In this framework they are beginning to combine genes of cold tolerant wild basil species (e.g., a plant collected from the high grounds of Mount Kilimanjaro). According to Dr. Ben-Naim, “Basil comes from Africa and likes heat. The winter season is a growing obstacle worldwide for growers who don’t use heated facilities. We try to implement genes from wild species to provide broader tolerance to Sweet Basil, so that farmers will be able to extend their growing season into the winter, and to export during the period when basil prices are high in most markets.” In another project, the team is trying to create a cultivar with resistance to aphids, thereby contributing to both consumers’ and the environment health with limited pesticide spraying of crops. However, it’s important to understand that the development process takes years and never really ends, since new varieties have to be adapted to different growing zones, to new epidemics and sometimes to new market trends that change from time to time.

Dr. Ben-Naim concludes: “Together with the breeding team of Genesis Seeds, today we are proud parents of highly innovative basil products. We’ve learned how to take a product with a long heritage such as the Basil, and to conduct a non GMO process in order to adapt it to changing market demands, whatever they may be.” 

All The Way To Prospera

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Two pot basils resistant to downy-mildew developed (Horti Daily / January 2021)​

Two pot basils resistant to downy-mildew developed

Horti Daily / January 2021

After years of research and development, and close cooperation with Genesis Seeds and Bar Illan University, company Fenix has brought into the market the world’s first two downy-mildew resistant hybrids specifically designed for pots production: BASILIO F1 and GERVASO F1 (from the Prospera® genetic family).

Read full article.

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