Régis Fournier – President

Régis Fournier is French and studied agronomy at the University Sup Agro in Montpellier. He has been President of the Union Française des Semenciers (UFS) since 2013 and Director of Innovation and International Development of MASSeeds. He joined the group Maïsadour in 1992 and progressed to marketing and sales functions before becoming Director of the Seeds Branch in 2003.

He is also a member of the Maïsadour’s Executive Committee and was Director of the contractual productions (for vegetables and field crops) for five years. Furthermore, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Groupement National Interprofessionnel des Semences (GNIS) and the Assemblée Générale des Producteurs de Maïs (AGPM).

He is the President of the ESA Board since 2018.

Michael Gohn - Vice-President, Chair Section Cereals & Pulses

Dr. Michael Gohn is Austrian and holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Vienna (1976), after which he worked as Research Assistant at the Institute for Radiation Chemistry of the University of Vienna. He then was employed at the Products Development Department of the OMV AG, the Austrian Petroleum Company. From 1990 onwards he progressed in his career as Assistant to the management at the Fritz Mauthner Company Group. From 1999 onwards he became Manager of Probstdorfer Saatzucht and other companies of the group. Since 2000 Michael became head of the Grain Trade at the Federal Agricultural Trade Association in Austria.

Besides being Chairman of the ESA Section Cereal and Pulses (SCP), he is also Chairman of the DG AGRI Advisory Group Seeds and Head of the Austrian Seed Association.

In 2018, he became Vice-President of the ESA Board. 

Antonio Villaroel - Treasurer

Antonio Villarroel has been working for the plant breeding and seed industry since 1995, when he joined as Lawyer and Managing Director GESLIVE, the organization created by main breeders operating in Spain to provide licensing, royalty collection and enforcement services. From 2006 he is also the Secretary General of ANOVE (“Spanish National Association of Plant Breeders”), from where he actively participates in the seed industry international organizations.

He is a member of the Intellectual Property Committee of ISF (International Seed Federation), where he chairs the Working Group on “Illegal Seed Practices”.

Mr. Villarroel has a Law Degree from Universidad Complutense of Madrid. He has published several articles and regularly gives lectures on IP and plant breeders’ rights in several Spanish Universities (Politécnica Madrid, Rey Juan Carlos Madrid, Córdoba, Alicante, Valencia).



Marian Suelmann - Chair IP&Breeder’s Rights

Marian Suelmann is Dutch and was born in 1967 in the Netherlands. She obtained her Master of Laws at the University of Nijmegen (the Netherlands) including one year of study at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Her professional career started in 1992 as a staff member responsible for legal affairs at NVZP (Dutch Seed trade association, later merged into Plantum) where she worked until 1998. She then became company lawyer and Head of Department of Legal Affairs at the Dutch seed company Rijk Zwaan and at the same time member of the IP committee of Plantum.

In 2000 Marian became a member of the Committee on Intellectual Property and Breeder’s Rights (CIPR) within ESA which she is chairing since 2006.

Niels Louwaars - Chair Regulatory&Legal Affairs

Niels Louwaars (1958) studied plant breeding at Wageningen University and obtained a PhD in legal and policy issues affecting seed systems. After some 10 years in seed projects in Asia and Africa, he returned to Wageningen. He was involved in internationalisation of Wageningen UR, including a role as liaison with the CGIAR system, and performed policy research from his base at the Centre for Genetic Resources (NL). He published widely on seed systems, seed regulation and various (property) rights on genetic materials, and was sworn in at the Breeder’s Rights Chamber of the District Court in The Hague. Since September 2011 he is director of Plantum in The Netherlands. He remains connected to the department of Law and Governance of Wageningen University, and is a member of the board at NAK, Naktuinbouw, Greenport Holland, and the Dutch Council for Horticulture.

Within ESA, Niels is chairing the Committee on Regulatory and Legal Affairs (CRLA) since 2013.

Søren Halbye - Chair Section for Fodder Crops and Amenity Grasses

Søren Halbye was born in Northern part of Denmark in 1969 and holds two Master degrees within Business Administration. After graduation in 1997 he worked 6 years with medical devices for Beiersdorf and 4 years in Novozymes within business development before joining DLF Seeds A/S as Chief Commercial Officer in 2006. Since 2017 Søren is Chairman of the ESA Section Forage Plants and Amenity Grasses moreover he is member of ISF Forage and Turf section since 2012. On national level he is since 2010 Chairman of the Danish Seed Traders Association.

Claude Tabel - Chair Section Maize and Sorghum

Gratuated from Agro Paris Tech with a master in quantitative genetics, he joined the RAGT group in 1996 to direct all research activities. He subsequently joined the Group's Executive Board and took over the chairmanship in July 2013.

Claude Tabel is vice-chairman of the UFS Board. He chairs the UFS Oilseeds Section after having served, since its creation, as Chairman of the Intellectual Property Commission. He represents and has represented the profession in many national and international organizations among which we can mention: ISF as a member of both Boards Field Crops and Forage & Turf, GNIS of which he is the President of the Forage and Turf Section and Board member.

At ESA, besides chairing the Corn and Sorghum Section, he is also a member of the CIPR.


Christoph Herrlinger - Chair Section Oil and Fibre Crops

Christoph Herrlinger is German and holds a law degree of the University of Bonn. Christoph spent almost all his professional life in the seed business. He started his career in 2001 as Head of Legal at the German Plant Breeders Association BDP. In that role he advised - at the interface between law, politics, science and business - seed companies of all size and of different focus on all questions with an impact on seeds. During that time he also held a role as Managing Director of the Gregor Mendel Foundation. After three years in a management role as BDP's Vice-Secretary General he started working abroad for a large international seed company in a global and cross-crop role. In 2015 Christoph joined NPZ as a member of the Management Board. He also holds management roles in several NPZ affiliates in Germany and abroad. Through all this time Christoph has served on, and has led, numerous committees of BDP, the International Seed Federation ISF, and ESA, amongst them the ESA Committee Regulatory and Legal Affairs. He has published on IP and seed trade and he is a member of several institutions working on IP in the life science area. Since 2018, he is the Chair of the ESA Section for Oil and Fibre Crops (SOF). 


Jörg Renatus - Chair Section Potatoes

Jörg Renatus was born in 1962 and holds a degree in Business Administration. His professional experience results from several employments within the potato industry. In 1986 he started his career as export manager in a midsize potato breeding and trade organization. Later on he was appointed as Managing Director of this group of companies. Having gained a vast knowledge in national and international potato breeding and trade industry, he joined in 2002 EUROPLANT Pflanzenzucht, Lüneburg, one of the leading companies in this industry.

Since 2012 Jörg is Chairman of the Section Potatoes (SPO) and member of the Board.

Ibrahim El-Menschawi - Chair Section Vegetables & Ornamentals

Ibrahim El-Menschawi is German with a degree in agricultural engineering and started his career at Asgrow Germany as a vegetable seed salesman in 1990 for which he held various management positions in Italy, Belgium, Germany and France.

In April 2006 Ibrahim joined Seminis in Oxnard, California as Global Strategy and Marketing VP. Mid- end of 2007 he moved with the Global Leadership team of Vegetables to St. Louis, Missouri. There he was involved in the acquisition of Poloni Seeds in France, Western Seed in the Netherlands, Peotec in Italy and finally De Ruiter Seeds in the Netherlands which later became the Monsanto Vegetable Division. In the summer 2009 Mr. El Menschawi returned to Europe, first to lead Monsanto’s EMEA Crop Protection division and, since September 2010, the Seed & Trait business in West Europe.

Since 2011 Ibrahim is member of the Board and became chair of the Section Vegetables and Ornamentals in 2015.

Fabrizio Ceccarelli - Member-at-Large

Fabrizio Ceccarelli was born in 1965 in Italy and has worked his entire career in the Italian seed industry. After graduating in 1991 in the Faculty of Economy and Trade at the University of Bologna, he started working as Sales and International Unit Manager for the company C. Ceccarelli Sementi S.r.l. in Forlì. In 1994 he continued his career as International Sales Manager at the “SAIS S.p.A.” in Cesena, a small Italian private company dealing with vegetable seeds as Production Company and also having breeding in some species. In 2003 he became Managing Director of the “SAIS S.p.A.”, a position that he covers still today.

Next to his position as member-at-large representing the Italian Seed Association within ESA, Fabrizio is also member of the Vegetable & Ornamental Board of ISF.

François Desprez - Member-at-Large

François Desprez is French and graduated 1979 from Agrotech Paris with a master in plant breeding. After an internship at Dekalb Ag in USA, he graduated 1983 from MBA HEC in Paris. Having joined the family company Florimond Desprez, he has held several positions in the marketing and export departments before being nominated as CEO in 1993 and President of the Group in 1999.

Between 2000-2002, François has been the last president of ASSINSEL (The International Association of Plant Breeders for the Protection of Plant Varieties) before its merger with FIS (Fédération Internationale du Commerce des Semences) to form ISF. Within ESA, he has already chaired the Section Cereals and Pulses (SPC) and later became Vice-President and President from 2006 until 2009. From 2009 until November 2013, François has been President of UFS, the French seed association. Since march 2017, François is President of GNIS, the French interprofessional organisation for seeds and plants.


Jean-Christophe Gouache - Member-at-Large

Jean-Christoph is French and an Agricultural Engineer graduate from the National Agronomic Institute in Paris. Since 1981 until now, he has worked in different position within the Limagrain Group, starting as corn breeder and progressing as COO of LG Seeds (Groupe Limagrain) in the USA (Illinois) and as CEO of Pharmaceutical Company Dolisos (part of Limagrain Group). From 1998 to 2004 Jean-Christophe occupied the position of Corporate Vice-President and afterwards CEO Field Seeds Division.

At present he is CEO of the Vegetable Seeds Division of the Groupe Limagrain. Besides being a member-at-large of the ESA Board, he is also member of the ISF Board, Chairman of the Breeders Committee and member of ISF Executive Committee.

Klaus Schlünder - Chair WG Seed Treatment and Technologies

Klaus Schlünder is German and born in 1956. He has a commercial background and started his professional career within the seed trade in 1980 and gained experience in several parts of the activity from breeding, seed production to distribution.

He worked for more than 10 years for DSV in grasses and oilseed rape and afterwards joined in 1993 KWS being responsible for the oilseed production and distribution in Europe.

Klaus is Chairman of the WG STAT of ESA and in parallel Chairman of SAT-COM within ISF and Chair of the horizontal WG Seed Treatment within BDP.



Jan Prasil - Member-at-Large

Jan Prasil is Czech and studied at the Faculty of Agronomy at Mendel University of Agriculture and Forestry in Brno, specialising in Genetics, Plant Breeding and Production seeds. His professional career started as agronomist for production seed in Cooperative Agriculture. Since 1991 he worked as breeder of Cucurbitacea species for SEMO s.r.o., later as manager of seed production, and then he progressed in the position of General Manager SEMO a.s.

Since 2002 Jan is member of the Board of ČMŠSA (Czech and Moravian Plant Breeders and Seed Trade Association), since 2009 he is Vice-President and since 2012 President of Czech and Moravian Plant Breeders and Seed Trade Association.

He became an ESA Board member in 2013.

Jérôme Barbaron - Member-at-Large

Jerome Barbaron is French and studied Business at the HEC in Paris and holds an MBA from INSEAD.

He has several years of experience in agrochemicals and seeds strategy planning and execution, in sales, marketing and technical operations general management at country level, and strategy formulation and execution.

He started working for Syngenta in 2004 and since 2015 he is Global Head of Cereals and Diverse Field Crops at Syngenta, in Switzerland. His previous industries experience includes pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, medical devices companies and retail.

Joachim Schneider - Member-at-Large

Joachim Schneider was born in Bensberg, Germany, in 1956. After studying agricultural engineering at the University of Bonn, Germany, and completing his PhD in plant pathology at the University of Gießen and the University of the South Pacific in West Samoa, he started his career in Research and Development in 1984 with Bayer’s Crop Protection Business Group in Germany. Joachim was working within Bayer in different global management positions in Germany, US, UK, Japan, and China, in the fields of Crop Protection, Seeds and Traits, Strategy and Public Affairs. In 2013, Joachim became responsible for Bayer’s global Vegetable Seeds business, with its headquarters in Haelen, The Netherlands. In 2018, BASF acquired the seeds business from Bayer, incl. the vegetable seeds business. Joachim maintains his role in the divested business as an employee of BASF.

Since 2015 Joachim is active within Plantum, the Dutch Seed Association. He believes that ESA has a key role to play to safeguard societal acceptance for the seed industry and to create a conducive business environment for this great sector. 


Gerard Backx – Member-at-Large

Gerard Backx is Dutch and graduated 1984 in plant breeding from Agricultural University Wageningen in the Netherlands. Before joining his current company HZPC, Gerard was working in different management positions for the agricultural seed company Advanta and its predecessor VanderHave between 1984 and 2001. Having worked with several crops, Gerard mainly focused on sugar beet seed and grass seed.

Since August 2001 he is CEO of HZPC, a Dutch seed potato company with its headquarters in Joure. He was ESA President for three years (2012-2015), and one of his main priorities was the promotion of the seed marketing legislation as well as IP rights towards key decision makers.

Nigel Moore - Member at large

Nigel Moore is British and studied Agriculture at Nottingham University specialising in plant physiology, genetics and breeding.  He has worked in the UK and European plant breeding industry for 25 years with experience in cereals, oilseed rape, pulses, maize, sugar beet and recently potatoes.  Since 1996, Nigel has worked in KWS based in the UK and from a background in variety maintenance, registration, protection and seed production he is a past managing director of KWS UK Ltd.

Nigel is currently the Head of Business Administration for KWS SAAT SE Cereals business unit with worldwide scope for cereals business development and business unit strategy.  He is also a past chairman of the UK breeders association (BSPB) and a member of the Field Crops Board of ISF. He was the President of the ESA Board from 2015 to 2018.

Paolo Barbieri – Member-at-Large

Paolo Barbieri is the Managing Director of DuPont Pioneer in Europe. In his role, Paolo is responsible for leading business operations across Europe.

In October 2015, Paolo joined the board of directors of the European Seed Association (ESA).

Paolo started his career in DuPont in 1990 and has served in a number of different roles and countries, including Regional and Global Business Director as well as Corporate roles, in USA, Germany and Switzerland.

Gyula Vida - Member At Large

Gyula Vida is Hungarian, graduated at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Gödöllő in 1989. He has been working for Centre for Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences as a wheat and durum wheat breeder. He obtained PhD degree in the field of agricultural sciences in 1997. Since 2015 he is the head of Cereal Breeding Department. Co-breeder of 90 small grain cereal varieties. He is vice president of the Hungarian Seed Association, national representative of Hungary in EUCARPIA, member of the Plant Breeding Committee, Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Association of Hungarian Plant Breeders, board member at the Hungarian Plant Breeders’ Foundation. ESA Board member since 2018.