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Tour the Franchi Sementi Factory With Us

Tour the Franchi Sementi Factory With Us

Posted by Will Nagengast on 29th Apr 2024

Franchi is known worldwide for their quality seeds and high germination rates. These attributes don’t just happen; it takes a lot of work and dedication to quality to produce the excellent seeds you enjoy growing with. We saw this firsthand when we visited the Franchi factory earlier this month. 

The factory is located in Bergamo, in northern Italy. It is here that the seeds, grown in fields around Italy, are shipped to be stored, tested, packaged, and eventually shipped out to distributors worldwide. The first thing that struck us about the Franchi facility is how similar it looked to our own warehouse; although Franchi's warehouse is nearly 35,000 square feet with 30' ceilings, many times larger than our own, the massive rows of shelves containing millions of packets of seeds was organized much in the same way as we've done. Franchi's warehouse, however, has many more tasks for which it is responsible than we have, and the building is divided into many sections. The first section of the facility was their offices. As you walk through the doors, you're immediately reminded of the long history of the company. Antique farm equipment, sometimes hundreds of years old, is displayed on walls and in corners. We noticed a long line of pictures of the various members of the Franchi family, who've maintained their management of the company for over 240 years now. Antique seed posters and brochures from as early as 1900 were displayed everywhere. It was impossible to not feel the weight of history that this seed company has as the oldest family-run seed company in the world. 

Full time graphic designers were hard at work on package designs and other marketing and promotional materials. With distribution in over 50 countries around the world, there's also an extensive amount of translation work to be done. Other office staff were employed in marketing, sales, shipping and distribution, accounting, and all the other roles you might expect in a larger company. The second and largest section of the factory was the main seed package storage hall. Right before they begin shipping their orders around the world in the fall, this room with towering shelves stretching off into the distance contains upwards of 30 million packets of seed. As we were visiting after their busy season had subsided, it was less than half full, and no employees were actively working in this area at the moment of our visit. 

The next room was a large storeroom designed to keep bulk quantities of seed at the ideal temperature and humidity until they can be packaged. Huge bags with thousands of pounds of seeds in each of them filled this room. There was also a very interesting metal seed sorting device, over a hundred years old but still in use. Mr. Franchi mentioned that you dump seeds in and it sorts them using gravity to carry the seeds down a spiraling chute. The larger seeds are separated out from the smaller seeds in this way, with several different spouts that the various size seeds will pour out of. I found it fascinating that sometimes the really old equipment is still more effective than a modern solution! 

The next massive room was the packaging room. Dozens of incredibly complicated looking machines took in seeds, filled and stamped the smaller hermetically sealed packets that the machine then slides into the beautiful larger picture packets, seals them, and stamps testing and production information on them. Each seed is packaged according to its' needs, so some seeds are in single layer hermetically sealed picture packets too. Each of these large packaging machines was attended by an employee. 

We walked up a flight of stairs to the laboratory, where Franchi rigorously tests every batch of seed that comes into their factory. Their laboratory scientist was not in the office that day, but we were able to see dozens of trays of seeds being germinated, and even more germination tests of all sorts of varieties were taking place in huge, purpose built germination chambers. These look almost like large refrigerators, but designed to allow the scientist to test the germination of hundreds of different varieties according to their most favorable temperature and humidity. Each batch of seed is tested multiple times every year to ensure that they are meeting Franchi's strict standards. 

Last came a final massive storage room, containing thousands of pallets of cardboard boxes, tens of millions of empty seed packets awaiting filling, and other packaging supplies. I had never really thought about what a huge quantity of materials it takes to package, label, and ship millions of packets of seed all over the globe! 

Finally, we stepped outside to Franchi's test gardens. This is a spot where they grow most of the varieties they produce, to give a final check that the seed varieties are accurate and that they grow as advertised. The gardens were mostly empty at the time of our visit, early in the spring for gardens in the colder northern regions of Italy, though the first spring crops we starting to come up in some beds; radishes, chicories, lettuces, carrots, and other spring greens were just starting to pop up in their raised beds, while transplants were going strong in their small greenhouse. Franchi has two full time gardeners for their trial garden when it's in season. The gardens produce a lot of vegetables, that the factory employees are able to harvest and take home. Remaining produce is donated to local initiatives combating food insecurity. 

In all, we were very impressed by the scale and organization of the Franchi Facilities. It seemed as if their primary focus was on seed quality, purity, and longevity at every step of the way. With institutional knowledge dating back generations, and a large and professional staff, it became very clear to us why Franchi Sementi produces some of the very highest quality seeds in the world!