Meet Eka Sari, Plant Breeder in the Private Sector
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
Eka Sari seeks to improve grower’s income by generating new crop varieties that produce higher yields with less inputs.
Eka Sari is a tomato junior breeder at Enza Zaden Research USA company located in Florida, USA. Eka develops commercial tomato varieties that can outperform in yield, disease resistance, and quality with wide adaptability at different locations within the United States but mainly on the east coast. Her day to day basis includes collecting genotypic and phenotypic data, making plant selections, creating crosses, organizing multi-location trials, and trial evaluations.
Sometimes family members can uncover our hidden passions and unexpected future
Eka Sari discovered her passion and curiosity about plants by just watching her mother gardening with so much enthusiasm. For this reason, she decided to start her journey in the agricultural field. Eka started her education at Bogor Agricultural University in Indonesia. As an active student at her institution, Eka explored many opportunities that allowed her to participate in different internships and universities. She participated in an awesome program called The Ohio Program (TOP), an international exchange program in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences(CFAES) at The Ohio State University, managed by the International Programs in Agriculture (IPA) where she worked for a floriculture company in Minnesota for six months. Eka completed an undergrad semester at The Ohio State University and subsequently pursued her M.S.c. at OSU in the Plant Breeding and Genetics program under advisement of Dr. David Francis. Her masters project focused on beta carotene genes from different tomato backgrounds and how these affect the flavors in grape tomato varieties.
Eka is interested in helping growers by developing new tomato varieties.
The plant breeding sector is very versatile. As a plant breeder you are able to play around with traits and characteristics that are needed in the crops in order to increase their productivity, hence, increase their yield and profit too. Eka’s interest revolves around developing the end product that can be sold to the growers. She expressed that the most exciting part is seeing how her varieties can improve growers’ income by generating higher yields with less inputs.
“With my job, I am hoping to be able to help tomato growers to get the most out of their crops therefore the income is improved, increased agriculture acreage due to more money to invest in the business, which indirectly help to increase more job opportunities, and eventually the economy of the country.”
Communication and patience are essential to fulfill the day to day goals at work
Working in a big company like Enza Zaden Research USA and any other, requires good communication and problem solving skills. Teamwork and organization are key for the day to day goals at the industry. She expressed that, in plant breeding, it takes time to see progress, so precise planning is priority when starting a new project. “Patience. In plant breeding we race with time and resources. We want to deliver products quickly with the limited amount of resources, so it is always a battle to balance between delivering good products and investment because unfortunately those two things work antagonistically.”
In agriculture you have control certain aspects of the system except for mother nature
Eka works in the Enza Zaden Research USA located in Florida, so the biggest challenges of growing plants in open field are hurricanes and disease pressure. As breeders, the disease pressure may decrease , however, when the hurricane hits, nothing can be done to save a complete season of a trial (months!!)
Agriculture is the foundation of the economy
After all the challenges that the Ag sector entails, we have to work even harder to improve the system. Eka expressed that by working and improving this sector we are improving the quality of life, increasing productivity, and independence in fulfilling basic human needs, which drives every aspect of life. “No food, human extinction.” Simple.
“Obstacles are there to advance you”
We know for sure that agriculture is a male dominated field but it’s on us to grow and work even harder. We, the women, need to team up and raise our voices to increase the representation in the field, connect and be stronger together. So, we asked Eka her thoughts about why it is critical to highlight women in the ag sciences and Eka expressed:
“ Women that are born and raised in developing countries with limited resources have emotional and personal motivation. Issues such as getting food or clothes, make them want to get a better life, provide a better living to people around them, and higher quality of life.”
Besides all the daily work that Eka has, she always finds time to maintain her wellness.
Eka makes time to go to the gym regularly. She also runs, hikes with her puppy, paints, and reads self-development related books.
Eka has two big female role models: Jane Goodall and Ellen DeGeneres.
What would you like to say to young females that are starting their scientific journey?
“In a male dominated business field, it is easy to fall into the thought of not being good enough. And I know it is easier said than done, but keep believing in yourself and never give up. The answer for your problems might be a few steps in front of you and if you stop you won’t be able to see it.”
Thanks, Eka, for sharing your story with us!
-The WAGS team
You can find Eka Sari and ask anything at:
Facebook: Eka Novita Sari
This interview was transcribed by WAGS co-founder, Andrea Lugo-Torres.