Simon Groot

Simon Groot, honored with the 2019 World Food Prize, will present the annual Norman Borlaug lecture "First: The Seed" on Monday.

Students and community members gathered at the Great Hall of the Memorial Union late Monday to listen to 2019 World Food Prize Laureate Simon Groot speak about his life and how he got to where he is now.

This lecture was the 18th Norman Borlaug lecture hosted at Iowa State. President Wendy Wintersteen joined Groot on stage and asked him questions about the work he has done.

Groot provided information to the attendees during the lecture and left some with multiple takeaways.

Tia Snyder, a senior in agriculture and life sciences education, said she left the Norman Borlaug lecture with a lot of information.

“[...] This opened my eyes to how other countries are struggling and what we’re trying to do in more developed nations to try and improve their situations,” Snyder said. 

Stefany Naranjo, a sophomore in agricultural and life science education, attended the lecture as well and said they were very intrigued by what Groot had to share.

“I just think it was such a great honor to have Simon Groot here,” Naranjo said. “This definitely is an advantage for students, getting to have that conversation with experts, seeing Groot’s side of things and learning and picking his mind a little bit was very intriguing.”

Groot did not start out his career in seed sales, but got into the family business of sales later in his life. Groot said he did not expect to enjoy working with seeds or sales. He said he stuck with the business and ended up really enjoying the work he did and started his own seed sales company.

Groot is the founder of East-West Seeds and he shared the goals and challenges the company faces.

“Keep on improving what we have done so far and overcome new diseases and new insects,” Groot said.

This information stuck with Snyder and she said it made her think about how career changes can improve your life.

“I think that what I learned is your career path can change and definitely for the better, just like with Simon Groot,” Snyder said.

The World Food Prize is an organization that works closely with scientists like Groot, as well as with youth. Some audience members said they were able to fully understand the importance of the World Food Prize and how it encourages youth to get involved.

“[...] I really like how they empower the youth,” Naranjo said. “The youth obviously are going to be the ones that change tomorrow, so just knowing that they have a program that encourages them to continue looking at ways to be innovative and feed the world.”

Audience members were allowed to directly ask Groot questions. One audience member asked Groot what advice he would give to undergraduates who are trying to step into Groot’s shoes in the future.

“Open up your eyes to the needs of countries that are in search of help,” Groot said.

At the end of the lecture, President Wendy Wintersteen presented Simon Groot with a souvenir to acknowledge his work and achievements with the World Food Prize and seed development.

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