Meet our breeding scientists, who are passionate about delivering high-quality, innovative and delicious products.
Breeding vegetables takes more than just hard work. It takes dedication curiosity and passion. Meet some of our breeding scientist and find out more about their skills and backgrounds which lead them to be part of the team that brings you seeds that can produce high-quality, flavorful food that meets the need of growers and consumers.
Taylor Anderson - Hot Pepper Breeder
As the new hot pepper breeder for the Americas, Taylor Anderson focuses on the creation of high-performing and disease resistant jalapeño, poblano and serrano hybrids. In his role, Anderson enjoys the balance of data-driven decision making and hands-on creative work. He is excited to work with an extensive collection of pepper genetics and to incorporate new breeding tools into the pepper breeding pipeline.
Anderson received his B.S. in viticulture and enology from the University of California, Davis, and his Ph.D. in plant breeding from Cornell University. At Cornell, he studied the genetics of disease resistance and horticulture quality in tomatoes. A few years ago, he was awarded a USDA Predoctoral Fellowship that funded his breeding work on tomatoes with enhanced genetic resistance to several problematic diseases. These tomatoes were recently shared with breeding programs in several countries, and he is hopeful that they may help protect crop yields and advance sustainable horticulture production.
Franco Asoro - Onion Breeder
As onion breeder Franco Asoro leads the Collaborative Breeding Pipeline Team for short- and mid-day onion as well as bunching onions. His team develops different types of onions for various growing conditions globally. In this position, he coordinates the application of new technologies in developing better onion varieties. Asoro’s favorite part of his job is when new technical innovations are developed, like applying new digital tools to get more insights from breeding data and using molecular markers to make breeding efficient. Additionally, Asoro visits with the growers and dealers to discuss new onion hybrids and hear their feedback, which helps improve future products.
Franco received his B.S. and M.S. from the University of the Philippines, and his Ph.D. in plant breeding with minor in statistics from Iowa State University. During his PhD studies, he studied and published papers on the use of genome wide association techniques, genomic selection and advanced statistical methods for oat breeding. He spent five years as a research associate working on sugarcane, coconut and tropical vegetable germplasm, two years as a commercial breeder for Monsanto in the Philippines, and six years as an onion breeder, among other experiences. He was also part of the team that received the Global Breeding Excellence Award in 2014.
Sarah Braun - Sweet Corn Breeder
Sarah Braun, sweet corn line development breeder, is accountable for the early pipeline for fresh and processing sweet corn. She partners closely with commercial breeders and data scientists to build a robust pipeline that accelerates results centered on customer needs. In her role, she identifies relevant innovations and processes that leverage our germplasm and lead to better products with greater efficiently. Most recently, Braun has partnered to deliver analytics and methods that impact immediate decisions and invest in the future of the pipeline. She is thrilled to be a part of an organization where there is a common goal to deliver superior products.
Braun is a University of Wisconsin-Madison Ph.D. and M.S. graduate with a Ph.D. in plant breeding and plant genetics and minor in plant pathology Her graduate studies were focused on identifying a key disease trait in addition to quality traits for potato utilizing wild species. Her dedication to education and experience led her to receive the Peloquin Fellowship Recipient in 2011 and the UW-Madison Graduate School Fellowship Recipient in 2012, among other awards. Prior to breeder role in Vegetable organization, she spent five years as a soybean breeder and scientist, where she mapped and integrated quantitative and qualitative disease traits, developed parameters and integrated diversity, and delivered in the commercial pipeline.
Megan Calvert - Watermelon Breeder
Watermelon breeder Megan Calvert is responsible for the development of the watermelon breeding strategy and oversees line and hybrid development for the seedless watermelon segment for markets in the United States, Mexico, Australia, and Spain.
Originally from South Africa, Calvert holds a B.S. and M.S. in genetics from the University of Pretoria. Her master’s research focused on marker-assisted selection in eucalyptus quantitative genetics. She received her Ph.D. from the wheat breeding program at Kansas State University through an interdepartmental genetics fellowship. In addition to her fellowship, Calvert’s Ph.D. research focused on implementing genomic selection on yield traits and developing high throughput phenotyping pipelines on yield components.
Alfonso Cuesta-Marcos - Melon Breeder
Alfonso Cuesta Marcos, melon breeder, is a global orange flesh CBT breeder. His focus is the development of cantaloupe hybrids for the Americas and Australia. Cuesta-Marcos believes it is his responsibility and privilege to work with the next generation of vegetable varieties and is excited to collaborate with other breeders in the industry. Cuesta-Marcos has extensive knowledge of plant breeding and is the co-author of 37 peer-reviewed publications and three book chapters on plant breeding and genetics. He has also contributed to the development of many linked markers in his role as a trait geneticist.
Cuesta-Marcos received his B.S. in agricultural engineering from the Universidad de Leon in Spain and his M.S. and Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from the Universitat de Lleida, Spain. In addition to his studies in Spain, he was a postdoctoral research associate and assistant professor/senior researcher at Oregon State University. Cuesta Marcos was also a trait geneticist for Bayer Vegetable Seeds and is a member of the Bayer Cross-Cultural Champions Together team.
Isabelle Delannay - Lettuce Breeder
As head of Americas Brassica and Leafy Breeding, Isabelle Delannay is the lead of the lettuce breeding pipeline. While at Bayer Vegetable Seeds, she has helped drive the breeding strategy to increase disease resistance in lettuce varieties. She is also the co-lead of the Robo Farmer initiative to both increase the quality and quantity of data collected in vegetable R&D.
Previously, Delannay spent time in Madison, Wisconsin, learning about breeding and genetics in the USDA cucumber breeding lab. This focus led her to write her dissertation on increasing genetic diversity in cucumbers using marker assisted selection. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point with her B.S. in biology and receiving her Ph.D. in plant breeding and plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she worked as a lettuce breeder for Monsanto in France for the outdoor batavia and oakleaf markets. In this role, she helped develop a unified breeding strategy for downy mildew resistance. Her experience in France and knowledge of plant breeding has allowed her to excel in her role at Bayer Vegetable Seeds.
Tyler Eckard - Americas Solanaceous Breeding
As head of Americas solanaceous breeding, Tyler Eckard is responsible for leading the Americas solanaceous breeding team and driving the strategy behind tomato and pepper breeding. Eckard said he is most excited to develop the next generation of plant breeders and implement new breeding technologies across global breeding pipelines. This allows the products and parent lines to be better characterized, as well as accelerating workflows and delivering stronger genetics faster.
Eckard received his B.S. in forest management and M.S. in forestry (breeding) from North Carolina State University, and his Ph.D. in plant breeding from South Dakota State University. He has prior experience as a trait geneticist, a discovery genomics lead and head of pipeline genomics, all of which help him in his current role. He also received the Monsanto Veg R&D Innovation Award and Newcomer of the Year Award in 2014, and he has submitted six patent applications related to traits and breeding systems at Bayer Vegetable Seeds/Monsanto. While he has already accomplished much, his recent transition to the Americas breeding and testing team is a milestone in his career. Eckard’s passion has always been in plant breeding and genetics, and he looks forward to the opportunity to work with global teams to help revolutionize vegetable breeding and better serve partners and customers.
Kendell Hellewell - Sweet Corn Breeder
As the temperate sweet corn commercial breeder, Kendell Hellewell works closely with the line development breeder to develop new and improved hybrids for both the processing and fresh market segments in all temperate regions of the world. In his role, Hellewell has the opportunity to work with global team members to make improvements in the yield and agronomic traits for growers and processors while also improving on key consumer traits such as eating quality.
With over 20 years of experience, Hellewell has had the opportunity to breed and grow corn in many diverse climates, as he was previously a hybrid wheat breeder in Northern Indiana, a field corn breeder in Southern Indiana and a sweet corn breeder in Idaho. His work as a breeder has earned him many accolades, including being named the Monsanto Associate Fellow in 2015 and Bayer Fellow in 2020. In addition, Hellewell was given the 2016 Vegetable Research Excellence Award for Commercial Impact. For Hellewell, the most rewarding part of his job is working closely with colleges and universities around the world to find the best sweet corn hybrids for growers, delivering solutions that improve their harvest and meet consumer demands. Hellewell graduated with a B.S. in agronomy from Brigham Young University and earned an M.S. in oat breeding as well as a Ph.D. in barley breeding from the University of Minnesota.
Scott Hendricks - Onion Breeder
A long day onion breeder, Scott Hendricks leads the collaborative breeding pipeline for long day onions. Alongside his team, he creates multiple types of onions to survive growing conditions. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue, which holds especially true in onion breeding. While life cycles are only two years, there is something new to learn every day, either about the germplasm or the markets; and that, alongside the people and growers, is one of the best parts about being a long day onion breeder.
Hendricks holds a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin. During 6 of his 38 years in commercial breeding, he served as a research associate in the USDA onion and carrot breeding programs at the University of Wisconsin. A current member of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) advisory panel, Hendricks received a public grant to investigate the bacterial diseases of onions. He also received the Asgrow Vegetable Research Award of Excellence in 1992, the Evermild Onion Monsanto Above and Beyond Award in 2010, and most recently the Research of Excellence Award for Commercial Impact in 2016. In addition to his many accomplishments, his research led to germplasm generation, which has been used in over 100 commercial product releases.
Jennifer Jacobs - Large Seed Root and Bulb Breeding Lead For The Americas
Jennifer Jacobs has a diverse breeding background but is passionate about focusing on implementing new breeding and digital technologies. In her role as large seed root and bulb breeding lead for the Americas, she improves the lives of farmers by bringing advanced technology to provide a better harvest. During her 14 years at Bayer Vegetable Seeds, Jacobs has had numerous roles within the company. Previously, she implemented genotyping workflows for numerous platforms and was part of the organization focused on improving the double haploid process for corn breeding.
Jacobs received her B.S. in human genetics and M.S. in plant breeding from the University of Manitoba and her Ph.D. in plant breeding and plant genetics from the University of Minnesota. Her knowledge and experience led to her being inducted into the Bayer/Monsanto Scientific Fellow Program.
Neel Kamal - Onion Breeder
As a commercial onion breeder, Neel Kamal is an integral team member for the short- and mid-day onion collaborative breeding pipeline. Kamal works with the breeding, testing, planning, market development, product management and sales teams in optimizing and maximizing the global testing of onion pipelines. Additionally, Kamal utilizes data to make new hybrids and successfully deploy products to address short-term gaps in the commercial portfolio and build on a long-term strategy for the future portfolio. Kamal is most excited to now have the resources to expand their testing footprints and trial their best in the industry products in several key onion markets. With rapid changes in the produce industry; implementing digital tools in phenotyping and utilizing predictive analytics will be priorities for Kamal.
Kamal completed his B.S. in agriculture and M.S. in vegetable crops from Punjab Agricultural University in India and his M.S. in agronomy and Ph.D. in plant and environmental sciences from New Mexico State University, US. Kamal uses his education, experience and skills to test new products while also looking ahead to anticipate consumer, customer, environment and market trends. Kamal is always eager to Interact with customers/growers to receive their inputs and feedback and provide them product information and other tailored solutions by Bayer. Kamal is also actively involved with academia and publications. Since 2004, Kamal has been part of developing successful new onion hybrids and has been involved with onions on various levels, such as research, production, marketing, economics, breeding and testing. His dedication to his research helped him receive the Bayer People’s Choice Award for Vegetable Research Excellence in 2019. Apart from Onions, Kamal has also worked on Garlic and Wheat Breeding in India.
Shantel A Martinez - Tomato Breeder
As a global processing tomato breeder, Shantel A. Martinez is responsible for breeding early, thin, intermediate, thick, and pear-processing tomato varieties. Martinez’s goal is to deliver high-value tomatoes for both the growers and processors. She uses an arsenal of knowledge and data to make precise crosses, hybrids, and selections to tackle the needs of multiple consumers. This knowledge comes from a strong relationship with the processing tomato industry, and from a diverse array of scientists on Bayer’s collaborative breeding team. Martinez is excited to be working with an array of scientists to bring advanced products to the tomato industry.
Martinez holds a B.S. in bioengineering, M.S. in crop and soil science, and a Ph.D. in molecular plant science from Washington State University and has completed several projects focused on crop genetics. Her work in Washington was conducted in multiple large-scale wheat breeding programs that have an emphasis on product quality and yield. Martinez also worked at Cornell University conducting genome-wide prediction for the small grains breeding program. Her expertise in integrating genetic technologies with breeding decisions is valuable for expediting the plant breeding process.
Laura Maupin - Carrot Breeder
Global carrot breeder Laura Maupin has 10 years of experience breeding carrots for global markets. Her goal is to deliver carrots with a high marketable yield and excellent root quality regardless of their market shape and style. Maupin’s focus on selecting hybrids with improved disease resistance and seed production traits has resulted in carrots with healthier foliage and improved reliability of seed for all markets. She is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with others in the industry to develop new, innovative hybrids. In her role, Maupin hopes she can help others understand their purpose in delivering carrots to their customers and share her dedication to creating consistency for carrots in the organization.
Maupin received her B.S. in horticulture and M.S. in crop science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her Ph.D. in crop, soil and environmental sciences from Virginia Tech. Prior to representing Bayer Vegetable Seeds, Maupin worked in corn and soybean research programs in both industry and academia. She has received numerous awards, including the 2017 Innovation Award, 2018 Commercial Impact Award and Operational Excellence Award, all of which are Vegetable R&D Excellence Awards. Maupin is also a member of the National Association of Plant Breeders, GroundBreakers and Women in Science Exchange. Her experience with both research and seed supply gives her a diverse perspective to collaborate across the organization to deliver the carrot pipeline.
Mark Newell - Solanaceous Commercial Development Breeder
Solanaceous commercial development breeder, Mark Newell, focuses on improving tomato and pepper products for the Americas. He is excited about the new role on the collaborative breeding team and is looking forward to reimagining pipelines and new products. In his previous role, Newell developed late-stage tools used for soy, cotton, wheat and corn advancement decisions.
Newell received his B.S. in forest biology and M.S. in plant genetics from Colorado State University and his Ph.D. in plant breeding from Iowa State University. Newell has prior experience as both a cereal breeder and a soybean breeder. In 2018, he received a Plant Breeding Excellence Award – Commercial Impact, which shows his dedication to providing quality products.
Kyle Parmley - Field Innovation Scientist
Kyle Parmley, field innovation scientist, works to innovate and implement phenomic field testing applications to drive both operational and breeding efficiencies. Parmley looks forward to collaborating with a global cross-functional team to create new innovations, and he is most excited to challenge himself by learning about new crops and adapting to new systems.
Parmley received his B.S. in plant science from Oklahoma State University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in plant breeding from Iowa State University. In addition to experience as a graduate student research assistant, Parmley was previously a soybean germplasm enhancement breeder who focused on developing diverse germplasm for the maturity group two breeding pipeline. During his time in soybean breeding, he was involved with the cross-disciplinary team involved in the initial discovery and final implementation of UAV-based methodology to estimate maturity in soybeans. This effort has removed the need for manual subjective phenotyping from more than 95 percent of North American soybean plots. Parmley received a Gold Award for development of UAV-based relative maturity estimation methodology.
Kiru Pillay - Head of Americas Vegetables Testing And Operations
As head of Americas vegetables testing and operations, Kiru Pillay is responsible for leading testing and site operation teams to execute seed production. Pillay and his team leverage industry leading phenotyping platforms and advanced analytics to maximize product characterization and placement. Pillay is excited to work in a collaborative breeding environment. Alongside his team, he is able to develop innovations that have a direct impact on the lives of our communities and contribute to food security across the globe.
With more than 25 years of experience in the seed industry, Pillay is trained in plant breeding and has experience breeding corn, soybeans and cotton. He grew his leadership skills through lead roles in projects such as the Water Efficient Maize for Africa and South Africa Breeding, as well as his time as a regional breeding lead at Bayer Vegetable Seeds.
Alberto Romero Navarro - Tomato Breeder
As the fresh market tomato breeder, Alberto Romero Navarro focuses his breeding program in the round tomato market. Navarro is excited about working with others on the collaborative breeding team to make the breeding process more efficient. In addition, Navarro and his team look forward to the opportunity to bring a wider variety of selections to growers faster.
Navarro received his B.S. in genomic sciences from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and his Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from Cornell University. Navarro spent time as a genomic selection and breeding consultant for cocoa breeding and was also a tomato breeder before starting at Bayer Vegetable Seeds. In his career, he is proud to have worked on international collaborative projects aimed at speeding breeding in maize landraces and cocoa. Navarro is proud of Bayer’s wide variety of high-performance varieties and relationships with growers, and he looks forward to partnering with all the members of the Bayer Crop Science team to continue producing high-performance varieties.
Nischit Shetty - Cucurbits Breeding Lead of the Americas
As the cucurbit breeding lead of the Americas, Nischit Shetty is responsible for breeding pickles, American slicers and parthenocarpy slicing cucumbers. Shetty has developed industry-leading hybrids and was the first in the seed industry to create and commercialize a downy mildew–resistant hybrid in pickling and slicing cucumbers. He is excited to be a part of a group set to deliver superior and innovative vegetable products and looks forward to working with the team to come up with innovative solutions to problems.
Shetty obtained a B.S. in horticulture from the University of Agricultural Sciences and an M.S. and Ph.D. in plant breeding from North Carolina State University. In addition to his educational experience, he has received numerous awards and has been involved in many organizations, including being a fellow in the Bayer Fellows Program in 2018 and an associate fellow in the Monsanto Fellows Program in 2013.
Sufei Wang - Brassica Commercial Breeder
Brassica commercial breeder Sufei Wang works to breed specialized hybrid broccoli and cauliflower varieties for the Americas. Wang focuses on grower efficiency and brings tailored solutions to customers in different regions by breeding new varieties. The solutions emphasized include the ease of harvest, comprehensive disease packages, improving yields and the adaptability to be suitable across a wide range of environments.
With experience in corn, alfalfa, global soybean breeding and cotton trait integration, Wang has ample experience in the industry and the global market which allows her to provide unique solutions to growers in need. In addition to a Ph.D. and M.S. in plant breeding and genetics as well as an M.S. in applied statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she also received a B.S. in crop sciences from Michigan State University.
Stephanie Zullo - Head of Pipeline Enablement for Solanaceous and Cucurbit Crops
Stephanie Zullo, head of pipeline enablement for solanaceous and cucurbit crops, is responsible for ensuring that products are moving through the pipeline at the right place, time and quantities. Zullo is excited about the opportunity to collaborate across different teams and identify ways to improve the breeding and testing pipelines for vegetable crops.
Zullo received her B.S. in biology from Cornell University, her M.S. in crop sciences from the University of Illinois, and her Ph.D. in horticulture and agronomy from the University of California, Davis. Her doctoral research focused on developing genetic resources and researching biotic stress resistance in lima beans. In addition, she developed the initial breeding objectives and pipeline for an organic fresh market tomato project at UC Davis.