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Berl Thomas, Ph.D. 

PROFESSIONAL HISTORY

The opportunity to have extensive experience in the areas of plug plant technology, seedling-transplant technology, tissue culture technology, vegetable crops technology, field crops technology, horticulture crops technology, and floriculture crops technology. This provided in-depth knowledge on business management involving: acquisition, profit improvement, product development, marketing, S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats, analysis, production systems, research, and long range business-planning.  This back ground of experience has ranged from business management, new product development, new business development, seed improvement, seedling and transplant systems, and crop production systems.

Areas of professional experience have allowed knowledge of international crop production systems and agricultural technology.  International countries include:  Australia, Brunei, China, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States.

Since 1992 the experience has concentrated on management of businesses as President and CEO of the world’s largest businesses in a broad spectrum of propagation technologies including seed, seedling, vegetative cuttings, tissue culture, bioreactor laboratory bag culture and somatic embryogenesis. Focus has been on connecting the seed and seedling industries together to reduce risk from seed borne diseases and enhance the synergy to increase profits of both industries.

1999 – To Present:  Berl Thomas and Associates, Inc. – President and Owner Bradenton, Florida, USA

June of 1999 Berl Thomas and Associates, Inc. (BTA) was formed to assist companies to fulfill their business goals by working directly with upper management and the companies management team. BTA has a long standing record of being innovative in problem solving, business management, new product development, S.W.O.T. analysis, quality assurance systems, customer satisfaction, asset growth, measurement systems, leadership training, team development, short and long term business planning to fulfill the goals of clients.

Traveled to China several times from 1999 to 2002 where several lectures were given and cooperation meetings were conducted with several government groups. Served as an agricultural advisor to the current and past Governors of Yunnan Province. The Yunnan advisory group consists of 24 international leaders serving as advisers to the Governor and Vice Governors of the province. Travel in China from 1991 to 2002 has given in-depth knowledge of the current conditions, directions and potential for doing business between Chinese and international companies.

2001 – 2002: Twyford International, Inc. – President and CEO Santa Paula, California and Apopka, Florida, USA

Twyford International, Inc. (TII) was the largest company in the world specializing in the production of tissue culture, bioreactor bag propagation, and somatic embryogenesis. TII was a significant subsidiary of the parent company, Kirin Brewery, Tokyo, Japan (KB). TII had large tissue culture laboratories in Apopka, Florida; Costa Rica; Santa Paula, California and Sebring, Florida. In addition tissue culture products were contracted in international laboratories. In 2001 TII concentrated on the production of green (foliage) products and was known thought out the world for its strength in the foliage tissue culture business. TII has had a history for the development of priority and patented products lead the industry.

In  2000 the company made the commitment to add the leadership necessary to develop color (flowering) products to its product line and improve the profitability of its current green (foliage) product line.

The summer of 2000 discussions were conducted with Kirin Brewery on becoming   President and CEO to provide the leadership to achieve their goals for TII. January 2, 2001 I joined TII with the responsibilities to: 1) add significant sales and profits to TII in flowering plant products, 2) conduct a S.W.O.T. analysis to focus on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the company and develop measurement systems to evaluate continuous improvements, 3) add a CFO to provide professional financial management, 4) add a manager as V.P. Color Products Division, 5) improve marketing of both color (flowering) and green (foliage) products, 6) reduce the production cost of tissue culture products, 7) develop a quality improvement program for product quality leading to improved customer satisfaction,  production cost and sales-order fulfillment, 8) develop a 5-year business plan providing direction for the company to improve profits through more efficient management, reduced production cost, reduced scrap rate, improved  production capacities and customer demand, 9) add a color (flowering) product division through internal breeding, international breeders under contract with TII and the introduction of color products from parent company “Kirin Brewery”, 10) evaluate the cost of production from each of the TII owned sites, internationally contracted laboratory sites, reduced cost due to new technology from KB, and new contract laboratories to be explored.

These were considered to be the ten pillars of business leading to the future financial success of TII. These business pillars were evaluated with each reporting month to measure the improvements and success in each area.

General Management and Business Accomplishments

  • Added Columbian laboratory as backup to China production of selected products.

  • Added a new department of quality control to focus on achieving ISO 9000 certification within 18 months, to develop quality standards, monitor quality, evaluate the cost of unfavorable quality, and guide management to quality management systems.  

  • Conducted the first TII International Improvement Conference to determine the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in sales, production, customer service, research & development, management and products.

  • Developed an intensive 5-year business plan to guide the company to improved profitability.

  • Developed improved budgeting processes.

  • Developed improved communication and coordination between laboratory and greenhouse locations.

  • Developed improved methods of evaluating the contribution of each TII product to the company profits.

  • Developed the color (flowering) plant products division by adding the V.P. Color Products Division, responsible for the introduction of color products, commercialization, marketing, sales, and business development.

  • Eliminated products with low and negative profit levels.

  • Evaluated color products in Japan developed by Kirin.

  • Improved financial management of the company with the addition of a CFO with strong financial experience.

  • Improved greenhouse production management through reorganization of management personnel in all greenhouse production locations.

  • Improved the information technology resources department to prepare the company for the demands of the new color products division.

  • Lead the company into measurement systems to measure improvements in quality, delivery and customer order fulfillment.

  • Lead the company to a major customer for color product sales.

  • Lead TII to participate in the April 2002 California Pack Trials giving TII recognition in their new color products program.

  • Negotiated contracts in China for tissue culture production to create lower cost of selected tissue culture products.

  • Reorganized Production Management to improve the communication between production locations, systems management, performance standards and measurements systems.

  • Reorganized Research & Development to focus on higher profit products and improvement in order fulfillment.

  • Served as advisor to Kirin Plant Laboratories, Japan on licensing agreements for color plant licenses in USA and Germany.

1991 – 1999:   Speedling, Incorporated – President  & CEO Sun City, Florida, USA

Speedling, Incorporated was the largest seedling production company in the world with nurseries in Alamo, Texas; Bakersfield, California; Blairsville, Georgia; Bushnell, Florida; Kunming, Yunnan Province, China; Nipomo, California; San Juan Batista, California; Sun City, Florida; Suzhou, China and Watsonville, California.  The responsibilities included leading a management team to improve and grow the company through improvements in production systems, quality control systems, human resource development, research and development, new business development, new product development, acquisitions, new nursery construction including two nurseries in China and business administration.   Since rejoining Speedling, sales revenue and profitability exceeded all previous records.  Refusing to continue business “as usual” and with the knowledge that new innovation and cutting edge technology was necessary to be successful in this highly competitive industry.  Direction of the management team created a company that was considered number one in the industry as measured in several ways and had accomplished the following:

General Business Accomplishments

  • Added a transplant service division for field transplanting of vegetable crops grown in our nursery.

  • Constructed a $12 million patented state‑of‑the‑art Sub-irrigation nursery in Nipomo, California, which was completed on schedule and on budget.

  • Created new business growth opportunity for finished orchid plant program from Taiwan tissue culture plants to be sold into the retail marketplace.

  • Created new business opportunity for Clip ‘n Cook fresh herbs for retail grocery stores in California and Florida.

  • Created new product line of strawberry plugs for Florida and California commercial growers.

  • Developed corporate video presentations to educate its suppliers, customers and future partners in business.

  • Developed a year‑end bonus profit sharing plan for all employees.

  • Diversified company business to protect against dependency on single market.  In 1991 the company was almost totally dependent upon Eastern USA vegetable seedlings for its pre‑tax income.  Today this risk has been corrected. 

  • Diversified ornamental products to include vegetative propagated ornamentals.

  • Doubled production capacity in the Sun City nursery.

  • East coast ornamental production and sales increased over 100% since 1991.

  • Established a Germination II area for increasing the efficiency of seed to seedling ratio.

  • Expanded the horticultural products division to include a full line of equipment and supplies reaching markets in the USA, Central and South America, and China.  Became the largest horticultural products supplier (greenhouses, soil mix, flats, etc.) in the USA tobacco industry.

  • Expanded nursery operations in the USA by acquisition, new construction and lease/purchase from three 3 locations to eight 8, located across the United States.

  • Expanded nursery businesses by purchasing existing nurseries in Texas, California, and Georgia.

  • Increased cabbage business to over 60 million plants from Florida nurseries since 1996.

  • Increased celery business to 60 million plants from Bushnell Nursery since 1994.

  • Increased the capacity of the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) plastics manufacturing plant and products to supply Southeast USA and planter flats throughout the Americas.

  • Improved employee benefits program to include 401(k) savings, available to all employees with a company match.

  • Led the ornamental products division to become the standard of excellence in quality and customer service in the industry.

  • Provided Total Quality Management (TQM) training for all employees.

  • Since 1997 Speedling has been the largest ornamental plug producer in the USA.

  • Speedling became the 11th largest ornamental greenhouse grower in the USA in size in 1999.

  • Speedling has been the world’s largest vegetable seedling producer since 1991.

  • Speedling was the largest tobacco seedling (plug) producer in the USA from 1993 to 1996. Since that time, seeing the eminent decline in the tobacco industry, Speedling reduced production dependency and diversified into other product lines.

  • Texas vegetable nursery increased over 50% since 1992.

  • West coast vegetable plant sales increased over 1000% since 1991.

Scientific Developments

  • Constructed soil media manufacturing plant at the Bushnell, Florida and Nipomo, California nursery facilities using Speedling formulations.

  • Coordinated the development of a fully automatic field transplanter from Australian manufacturer to plant two plants per second per transplanter head.

  •  Coordinated the development of soil media enhancement program with biological additives.

  • Developed growing and shipping methods to ship ornamental plugs long distances to Europe, China, and Singapore.

  • Developed procedures to reduce risk from Tobacco Blue Mold disease.

  • Developed the process of growing strawberry transplant production from nurseries in Maine, Florida, Texas, and California.

  •  Introduced ornamental plug products into the European market.

  • Selected as the only representative from a transplant nursery, participated as a member of ASTA (American Seed Trade Association) and helped to develop operational procedures to reduce risk from Watermelon Fruit Blotch disease in transplants and other seed born diseases in vegetable crops.

USA Individual Accomplishments

  • Coordinated the development of a new high‑tech, high capacity and multi-functional seeder.

  • Coordinated the development of expandable polystyrene skinned flat with a European manufacturer.

  • Coordinated the development and manufacture of the first high‑speed, fully automatic field transplanter in the USA to plant two plants per second, per transplanter head.

  • Coordinated the development of a fully automatic field transplanter with a Japanese manufacturer for 5 plants per second per head including the design of EPS planter flats for the transplanter.

  • Designed and coordinated the construction of a new high capacity greenhouse design for Sun City, Florida, USA.

  • Designed and patented expendable polystyrene growing trays for the fully automatic field transplanter from Australia.

  • Designed Speedling’s 200 cell EPS growing trays for melon crops.

  • Established manufacturing of expandable polystyrene flats in China in 1999.

  • Established manufacturing of greenhouse components in China in 1999.

  • Invented, patented and contracted the manufacture of a successful one‑rotation series of disposable Expandable Polystyrene flats for the tobacco market.

  • Negotiated extremely favorable lease terms to begin pilot transplant production at the decommissioned Loring, Maine, USA Air Force Base.

  • Negotiated the successful purchase of Alamo Transplants Nursery, Alamo, Texas, USA in 1992.

  • Negotiated the successful purchase of Greiling Nursery Blairsville, Georgia, USA, 1997.

International Individual Accomplishments

  • Created joint venture with Suzhou Future Agri‑World, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China for the construction of new nursery for ornamental and vegetable seedlings.  Construction completed and successful production began in 1999.

  • Developed China trading of horticultural products from over 30 USA and international companies.  Exhibited in horticultural trade shows in Beijing, Shandong Province, Dalian, Kunming, and Shanghai, China.

  • Invited to lecture in Dalian, Kunming, and Beijing, China as an agricultural expert by the Chinese government to national experts on the subject of horticultural technology.

  • Negotiated a joint venture with Advance Four Seasons Flower Company in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China for an ornamental plug nursery.

  • Speedling was invited to participate in the 500 acre 1999 International Horticulture Expo in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.  The company constructed a 10,000 square foot display garden of ornamental products new in the China market, grown at the new nursery in Kunming.  The site became a popular photographic location as more than 11 million people visited the garden during the period of May 1999 to October 1999 giving Speedling country wide exposure.  The site was considered by many Chinese as the site representing the cooperation between the USA and China.

1983 – 1991: Plant Gro – President and Owner Bradenton, Florida, USA

Plant Gro was a leading consulting firm dedicated to the clients improvement of plug and transplant production quality, plug and transplant production cost reduction, profit improvement, production personnel training, business management, and incorporate the latest methods of production technology, for growers, farmers, greenhouse operators, domestic and international seed companies, soil mix manufacturers, vegetable seedling producers, equipment manufactures, EPS tray manufacturing, tobacco seedling producers, tobacco farmers, and ornamental plug producers.

Clients were located throughout the United States and several foreign countries.  Consulting activities included the following:

  • Assisted companies in developing S.O.P’s (Standard Operating Procedures).

  • Assisted companies and growers in restructuring company personnel for reducing overhead and improving employee efficiency.

  • Assisted companies to identify problems with products on customer complaints.

  • Design of facilities and development of production programs for ornamental, bedding plant and cut flower plugs.

  • Design of vegetable variety trials for tomato, pepper, eggplant and cucumber plants for commercial farmers in USA and Mexico.

  • Developed business management plans for improving company profits and products for clients throughout USA, Mexico, and other countries.

  • Developed feasibility studies for new products or business.

  • Developed improved tomato varieties for seed companies.

  • Development of improved techniques for production of vegetable seed for seed companies.

  • Development of production programs for vegetable seedlings.

  • Monitored bedding plant and flowering pot plant production for wholesale ornamental nurseries.

  • Monitored field vegetable production for commercial farmers.

  • Monitored vegetable and ornamental seedling production for seedling nurseries.

  • Training programs for client personnel in production of new products and improvement of existing products.

1973 – 1983:  Speedling, Incorporated - President Sun City, Florida, USA

President (Nursery Division) – 1978 to 1981, Technical Manager – 1981 to 1983, V.P. of the Corporation – 1976 to 1978, Greenhouse Production Manager – 1974 to 1978, Director of  Research – 1973 to 1978,

Responsibilities included management of the Nursery Division, which produced approximately 200 million seedlings per year.  Seedling products included vegetable, ornamental, and field crops.  During this period, greenhouse capacity increased over 630 percent.

  • Conducted research on seed quality improvement.

  • Developed production systems for tobacco, cotton, and sweet corn.

  • Developed production systems for over 10 foliage liner products.

  • Developed production systems for more than 20 ornamental plug products.

  • Developed seedling production systems and seed conditioning techniques to increase efficiency and profitability of programs.  Ornamental products did not exist in 1973; however, became 30 percent of annual income by 1983

  • Developed twenty‑five ornamental, twenty‑two vegetables, tobacco, and citrus by 1983.

  • Designed and supervised construction and initial staff training of California plant production division.

  • Designed specialty equipment for seedling industry.

  • Designed over 10 Speedling seedling containers for specialty crops, 1973 to 1983.

  • Directed research activities in all areas of product development and improvement with major emphasis on new vegetable crops.

  • Formulated soil-less media specific to containers and seedling crop requirements.

  • Presentations to promote new product lines to professional and industry association were made through-out 1973 to 1983 period.  Developed Speedling into a professional quality company to employees, staff, educators and the industry.

1970 – 1973:  Florida Celery Exchange – Director Research Division Belle Glade, Florida, USA

Director Research Division established and evaluated all research programs.  Major research focused on: 

  • Coordinated the development of the first rotary drum seeder for seedling trays in 1972.

  • Designed systems, which would lead toward, mechanized celery seedling production and transplanting including seedling container design, soil media, growing and materials handling.

  • Designed and supervised construction of the Florida Celery Exchange Research Station.  Project completed on schedule and within budget.

  • Fertilizer studies for seedling production.

  • Seed coating development, pesticide applications, evaluations of seed storage techniques. 

  • Seed treatment (including air separation, chemical treatment, and thermal shock treatments).

  • Soil media development, evaluation and selection.

1967 – 1970:  The Louisiana Land and Exploration Company – Chief Agronomist Houma, Louisiana, USA

Chief Agronomist, established vegetable and field crop research station to evaluate feasibility of agronomic and vegetable crop production in Louisiana marshlands.  Major crops studies included over 40 vegetable and field crops.  Research was concluded when the project successfully demonstrated that the land could yield two or three times the state average in selected crops.  The company’s objective was to prevent the land from being sold to the government as a wild life reserve.

1964 – 1967:  Mississippi State University – PhD Agronomy Research Assistant Leland and Starkville, Mississippi, USA

1962 – 1964:  Louisiana State University – MS Agronomy Teaching Assistantship Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

EDUCATION

Doctor of Philosophy, 1972, Mississippi State University

Major:    Agronomy and Genetics

Minor:     Botany and Weed Science

Master of Science, 1964, Louisiana State University

Major:    Agronomy and Genetics

Minor:     Botany

Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, 1962, Arkansas State University

Major:    Agriculture Education and Science

Minor:     Agriculture Engineering and Agronomy

Management Training Seminars:  Executive Consulting Services, Inc. (Success by Selection), and American Management Association, Positive Employee Practices Institute (PEPI).  Numerous specialty and professional courses.

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIP 

  • American Society of Agronomy: 1966‑1985

  • Asian Pacific Seed Trade Association: 1999 - 2002

  • Bedding Plant Foundation, Inc.: 1988 – 1989 – Charter Member

Director: 1980‑1989, Vice President: 1980 –1981, President: 1981‑1982

  • Bedding Plants Incorporated: 1973 – 1988

Director: 1979 – 1985 (also known as Professional Plant Growers Assn)

  • Crop Science Society of America: 1966‑1985

  • Florida Governor’s Seed Trade Council: 1993 – 1998, Chairperson in 1994 and 1995

  • Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association: 1977‑ 2002, Director: 1981‑1985

  • Florida Ornamental Growers Association: 1975 – 1999

  • Florida Tomato Exchange: 1983 – 2002

  • Garden Writers Association of America: 2001 – 2002

  • International Plant Propagators Society: 1979 – 2002

  • Ohio State Florist Association: 1974 – 2002

  • Professional Plant Growers Scholarship Foundation: 1988 – 1994, Charter Member

  • Soil Science Society of America: 1966 – 1985

  • Tobacco Blue Mold Science Task Force: 1996 - 1997

CERTIFICATIONS

State of Arkansas: Instructor, Agriculture and General Science, 1962

State of Louisiana: Certified Plant Breeder, 1969

PATENTS

Awarded USA Patent “Molded Plant Tray”, Patent Number 5,934,018 (August 10, 1999)

Awarded USA Patent “Plant Flat”, Patent Number D419, 913 (February 1, 2000)

Awarded USA Patent “Molded Plant Tray”, Patent Number 6,085,462 (July 19, 2000)

AWARDS AND HONORS

Bedding Plant Foundation, Inc., Foundation Founder Award, 1980

Bedding Plants Incorporated, Director Appreciation Award, 1978 and 1979

Belle Glade, Florida, USA, Community Service Award, 1973

Delta Tau Alpha, Agricultural Honor Society, 1962

Future Farmers of America, Degree of Honorary Chapter Farmer, Manatee High School, Bradenton, Florida, USA, 1983

Future Farmers of America, State Farmer – Arkansas, USA, 1958

Florida Nursery Growers Association, Orlando, Florida, USA – Director Appreciation Award, 1983 - 1984

Les Floralies Internationales de Montreal, Canada, Selected to represent the USA to judge summer annuals in this International Flower Show, 1980

Manatee River Garden Club, Service Appreciation Award, Bradenton, Florida, USA, 1997

National College Teacher’s Association, National First Place Soil Evaluation Award Winner, Austin, Texas, USA, 1961

Yunnan Provincial Government Advisory Mission for Economic and Social Development, Advisor Award from the Governor, Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, 1999

PRESENTATIONS TO ORGANIZATIONS

  • American Seed Trade Association, Inc., USA

  • American Society of Agronomy, USA

  • Auburn University Flower Growers Short Course, USA

  • Bedding Plants Incorporated, Conference, USA

  • Beijing International Horticultural Conference and Exposition (July, 2000), Beijing, China

  • Dalian Horticulture Exposition, Dalian, China

  • Florida Flower Growers Association, USA

  • Florida Ornamental Growers, Conference, USA

  • Florida State Horticultural Society, USA

  • Georgia Short Course and Convention, USA

  • Guangxi Institute of Horticulture Research, (July 2000), Guilin, Guangxi Province, China

  • Harris-Moran Seed Company,(1999), Sales Convention, Palm Springs, California, USA

  • Maine Florists Society, USA

  • National Agricultural Plastics, Conference, USA

  • National Foliage Short Course, USA

  • Tennessee Flower Growers, Short Course, USA

  • Yunnan Agriculture Academy, Institute of Fertilizer Science (May, 2000), Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

  • Yunnan Agriculture Academy, Institute of Horticulture Science (May, 2000), Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

  • Yunnan Tobacco Research Institute (May, 2000), Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

PUBLICATIONS AND PAPERS

“American Awarded National Friendship Award and the China Flower Industry”, China Horticulture (January 2000)

“Announcement of Yunnan Advisory Appointment”, China Horticulture (September, 2000)

“Artificial Media Uses and Selection”, China Horticulture (September, 2000)

“Asian Seed ’99 Roars Forward”, Seed Trade News (December, 1999)

“All Year Plants in the South.”  Plants Alive Magazine, (1971)

“Automatic Transplanter Choices for use with Plugs”, Greenhouse Grower Magazine, (1999)

“Breeding Behavior of Fiber Strength and Fiber Elongation in a Cross Between Two Varieties of Upland Cotton.”  Masters Thesis, Louisiana State University, (January 1964)

“Building a Better Seed”, Seed Trade News (January 2000)

“California Flower Pack Trails”, China Horticulture (July, 2000)

“China’s Emerging Flower Industry”, Greenhouse Grower (April, 2000)

 “Developmental Morphology of the Male Inflorescence of Zea mays L.”  American Society of Agronomy, (1965)

 “Enthusiasm for Gardening Puts Colour into US Market”, Flower Tech (Volume 4, Number 3)

 “Healthy Plant Package”, The Tobacco Industry, (1995)

 “Inheritance of Fiber Elongation in Two Separate Crosses of Upland Cotton Having a Common Parent.”  Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual Cotton Improvement Conference.

 “IPM Essen Horticultural Trade Fair”, China Horticulture (April 2000)

 “New House for Horti Fair”, Greenhouse Grower (January 2001)

 “Pentas, Production, Varieties and Uses”, China Horticulture (May 2000)

 “Pepper Seedling Production Guide.”  Northrup King Seed Company, (1986)

  “Plug Use Has Become Automatic”, Greenhouse Grower, History of U. S. Floriculture, (1999)

 “Poinsettias: Out of Season, Out of Country”, Greenhouse Grower (March 2001)

 “Resistance of Gossypium Species to the Action of Herbicidal Oil.”  Dissertation, Mississippi State University, (1972)

“Scheduling Poinsettias for China’s National Day”, Flower Tech (Volume 4, Number 1)

“The Life Cycle of Cotton.”  Louisiana State University, (1963)

“2000 IPM Show Extended”, Greenhouse Grower (April, 2000)

BUSINESS AFFILIATIONS

Owner (40%) in partnership of T & C Supplies, Inc., Gilroy, California, 1985 – Present.  Horticultural supplies and vegetable seed distributors.

Owner (40%) in partnership of Horticultural Options, Inc., 1987‑1992, partnership.  Distribution and development of EPS growing trays.





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