Celebrate Flavor…Celebrate Health – Profile of a Tomato Breeding Craftsman
Under the blazing summer sun of California’s Central Valley, I made my way across an obstacle course of flourishing tomato plants that painted the soil for hundreds of acres. As I caught up to Kanti Rawal, world-renown geneticist and leader in the field of tomato breeding, I quickly found myself captivated by the electricity in his eyes as he lifted up one of the plants at our feet to unveil an abundant, uniform cluster of perfectly red, saladette tomatoes bred for processing. With one swift shake of his arm, the airborne plant released all of the clinging fruit simultaneously and we watched the tomatoes pile up to cover the ground, being freed perfectly from the vines that brought them to life – a phenomenon all thanks to Rawal. As I bit into a brilliant red tomato I had swiftly picked from the cluster on the ground, under the close eye of Rawal, my view of the fruit was instantly changed forever. With a sweetness brought forth only by dedication and care, Rawal had created a masterpiece. With a passion to make the world healthier with better tasting tomatoes, Rawal is changing the industry one variety at a time, planting, cultivating, nurturing, dissecting, pollinating, tasting and otherwise practicing the art of tomato breeding.
It is all about innovation and taste for Kanti Rawal, working to bring out the best nature has to offer. With more than three decades of experience, Rawal’s passion, training and experience have allowed him to create prized vegetable seeds tailored to the needs of the market. Rawal has launched dozens of unique tomato varieties with exceptional taste and post-harvest advantages.
“I am a research scientist by training, keenly focused on the market for ideas and innovation,” says Rawal.
In the 1960’s, Rawal began his studies within the field of genetics. Receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and then a Master of Science degree in botany from Gujarat University in Ahmadabad, India, Rawal came to the United States and completed his Doctor of Genetics degree from the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana in Champaign, Illinois under the advisement of acclaimed geneticist Dr. Jack Harlan in 1969.
After his schooling, Rawal began his career in Nigeria at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Tropical Agriculture Initiative (IITA) and then moved to the University of Colorado, Boulder and Colorado State University, Fort Collins as Faculty before accepting his first position within the field of tomato breeding in 1981.
“My education about flavor started at Del Monte,” Rawal says. In the early 80’s, Rawal worked with Del Monte to breed tomatoes that were tough enough to withstand machine harvesting that could also produce fruit which simultaneously ripened on the vine. By 1985, Rawal had developed new tomato varieties that allowed Del Monte to establish itself in the growing California tomato market.
Excited to utilize his expanding knowledge of tomato breeding, Rawal founded California Hybrids in 1991 –a leading developer of high flavor tomato and peppers, which quickly became a forerunner within the industry, producing flavorful, colorful varieties bred for commercial and home garden use.
In the late 1990’s, Rawal worked with Larry and Sandra Jacobs, owners of Jacobs Farm – an organic produce company based in California, to help low income organic farmers on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico to create highly flavorful ,shelf-stable tomato varieties sturdy enough to ship from San Jose del Cabo, Mexico to the United States.
Rawal’s work with Jacobs Farm and the Del Cabo Corporative allowed hundreds of Southern Baja farmers to make a living growing organic tomatoes for export. You can buy the Del Cabo varieties today in the United States to support these hard working farmers.
In 2012, Rawal became a part of our newly formed VoloAgri company. His California Hybrids branded products became part of the VoloAgri portfolio and he joined the team as our first breeder and research team leader. He currently works as Senior Technical Adviser to our management team. The notable flavors of Rawal’s tomatoes have been celebrated worldwide. With flavor profiles from melons to mangos to sour apples, Rawal always makes taste a top priority and strives to improve the vegetable seed market with his genetic innovations.
Trialing work on some of his exceptional fresh market tomatoes with Kanti Rawal