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Taiwan's 'Watermelon King' passes

2012/12/17 17:04:51

Taipei, Dec. 17 (CNA) Chen Wen-yu, a supplier of nearly 25 percent of the world's watermelon seeds, died Dec. 7 at the age of 88.

A funeral service for Chen, who created the world's first seedless watermelon in 1962, is scheduled for Dec. 19 in Kaohsiung.

Chen earned the name "Watermelon King" because he produced more than 200 varieties of watermelons during his 44-plus years in the business.

"The goal is to create the world's most delicious watermelon," he once said. "If you have ever had such a watermelon, you will not turn to other watermelons."

Born and raised in a rural village in Tainan's Yongkang District, Chen was very aware of the hardships farmers experienced and he decided when he was 14 that he would learn about agricultural technology to help improve farmers' lives.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development, he pursued advanced studies in horticulture at Chiba University in Japan. He later returned to Taiwan and founded the Kaohsiung-based Known-You Seed Co. with his friends in 1968.

The name "Known-You" can be transliterated as "friends of farmers" in Mandarin.

Chen's company focuses on developing new varieties of watermelon seeds, but has also created more than 500 new vegetable and flower varieties.

"It takes good seedlings to produce good varieties," Chen once said. "So we provide farmers with good seeds to help them have better harvests."

These seeds "are provided to farmers in Taiwan and around the world," the company said in a statement after Chen's death.

The company now has a seedling farm in the U.S. and branch offices in China, India and several Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Thailand.

Chen also set up a foundation to help improve the welfare of local farmers and funded the establishment of a hospital in Myanmar to provide free medical services for farmers there.

In recognition of Chen's contributions to agriculture and farmers' welfare, President Ma Ying-jeou in 2011 conferred on him the Order of Brilliant Star with Violet Grand Cordon.

Chen was also featured on Discovery Channel in 2006 as one of six influential Taiwanese people

(By Alex Jiang and Elaine Hou)