The world’s fourth largest seed company, Limagrain, announced the expansion of its partnership with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, including executive educational exchanges, student internships and ongoing collaboration.

The announcement comes as 40 of Limagrain’s top executives visit the university as part of its annual spring executive meeting.

“Holding our spring executive meeting at the University of Florida is a great opportunity to witness the numerous and diverse agriculture research activities being done here, especially the Challenge 2050 Project initiative that aims to find sustainable solutions for feeding a growing world,” said Daniel Chéron, chief executive officer of Limagrain.  “As an international farmer cooperative, one of Limagrain’s primary goals is to foster agricultural progress. We feel well-aligned with UF in this mission and are pleased to support their efforts with this partnership,”

Limagrain operates in 41 countries and already financially supports the IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Challenge 2050 program, which aims to equip current and future agricultural leaders with the skills to find innovative ways to sustainably feed the world’s projected population of 9 billion people by 2050.

“Our relationship  with Limagrain  is another  example  of the global  reach  and impact that UF/IFAS  faculty and their research programs  have, “  said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This is an incredible opportunity for our students, faculty and one that will benefit our stakeholders.”

Limagrain executives outlined the international company’s goals of expanding its workforce from 8,600 today to 13,000 by 2020. Creating a strong relationship with UF/IFAS and expanding opportunities for its students is a critical component of that expansion strategy. The relationship includes an Executive in Residence program, guest lecturer exchanges between UF/IFAS and Limagrain, and student internships with the company.

Limagrain’s top executives met with UF/IFAS  faculty and administrators to learn  more about how they  could partner  on finding  solutions to  critical  global issues.  Executives and faculty are spending two days touring laboratories and meeting with UF/IFAS faculty in plant sciences, the Emerging Pathogens Institute and the new Institute for Global Food Systems.

Limagrain specializes in field seeds, vegetable seeds and cereal products, has annual sales of almost 2 billion Euros and employs people in 41 countries, including more than 1,800 researchers. It was founded and is managed by French farmers. Limagrain is the second largest in the world for vegetable seeds and first in Europe for wheat. It also leads the European market for functional flours and is the top industrial bakery in France.

Last year, Limagrain announced a €150,000 (approximately $200,000 U.S. dollars), three-year grant to support the Challenge 2050 Project, a major UF/IFAS CALS initiative.  Its subsidiary, HM.CLAUSE is also donating $100,000 over a five-year period to the project. The company’s financial support allows UF students and faculty to engage in hands-on educational activities. In the program, students analyze global food-system problems and offer solutions for issues such as food waste, distribution, pollution and obesity. Students who successfully complete a four-course series earn a Global Leadership and Change certificate.

The student internships may be offered during any academic semester and may encompass more than one semester. The internship may be at least six weeks in duration, 12 weeks during the summer or 12 to 15 weeks during the fall or spring semesters. Students may gain experience in a number of areas including policy development, agricultural operations and agricultural production.  Students are expected to gain real world application of skills, expand their perspective about living and working in a diverse and global society, and apply knowledge gained from the coursework in the Challenge 2050 program.

The executive in-residence program is expected to start in late 2015.