(Oct. 22) Timco Worldwide Inc., Woodland, Calif., has formed an exclusive partnership with Origene Seeds Ltd., Israel.

“We’re going to breed watermelons, specifically the characteristics of watermelons, to what we believe are what consumers are looking for,” said Tim Colin, Timco’s chief executive officer. “We believe there’s a much more distinct experience available to consumers, in particular the watermelon flavor.”

The president of Origene Seeds is Eyal Vardi, a global figure in seed genetics. He specializes in melons, squash and cucumbers.

“Timco’s intense focus and expertise with melons in general, and particularly watermelons, provides us the partner we need to meet the needs of growers and consumers,” Vardi said in a prepared statement. “This is a collaboration built on complementary strengths and shared mutual objectives.”

After completing a series of focus groups, Timco has it has a good handle on what shoppers ideally want in a watermelon, in both regular and personal sizes, Colin said.

“Now I’m taking that information from the focus groups and working with a breeder who can actually get us to the end result,” he said. “We want more than a taste of sugar; we want an explosion of flavor.”

The fruits of the strategic partnership will be readily obvious to Colin. The Davis complex will be immediately adjacent to the company’s new 11-acre research and development, seed trialing and greenhouse facilities.

Unlike other commodities that require a decade or more to develop new varieties, Timco plans to have new watermelon varieties on market shelves in record time, Colin said. Varieties that show promise will be fast tracked through the system, he said.

“We’re looking to take those varieties from concept to commercial volumes in three to four years,” Colin said.

The ultimate goal is proprietary varieties, he said, but those varieties are just part of Timco’s broad vision.

“We are looking to build sustainable, hi-yielding varieties that use less fertilizer, less irrigation water, those types of characteristics that will enable us to be able to bring to our customers a product they can market at their margins and still have the customers buy,” Colin said. “We want long-term sustainability from seed to grower to the shelf.”

The plan does not include becoming a full-fledged farming company or a seed company.

To achieve that goal, Timco must have ownership over many aspects of the business, including seed selection, varietal selection, farming protocols, drip irrigation and more, he said.

“We think we can add a tremendous amount of value to our customer base and also to our growers,” Colin said.

In 2009, the company plans to have growers in 14 states and in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama, Colin said. This year, Timco contracted with growers in 10 U.S. states and the five other countries.

The exclusive partnership with Origene is for Central America and North America and is not limited to watermelon varieties, although that is the initial focus, Colin said. In the future, he plans to expand the program to cantaloupe, honeydew and other melon varieties.

Timco Worldwide, a privately held company founded in 1985, sells conventionally grown and organic melons under the MelonUp and Sundia labels.

The company is scheduled to move from Woodland into a new 6,000-square-foot sales and administration office in nearby Davis in December.