With drought in the West, pesticide-resistant weeds and insects in the nation’s mid-section and anti-pesticide activists spreading misinformation in the East, American agriculture certainly faces some daunting challenges.
But where some companies see storm clouds on the horizon, others see opportunities. Liam Condon, CEO of Bayer CropScience, discussed those in this video from the grand opening of the company’s new $17-million, 76,000-square-foot greenhouse facility at the Memphis, Tenn., Agricenter.
“These challenges are really what excite us as Bayer CropScience because we then try and find new solutions to deal with these challenges,” said Condon, who also serves as chairman of the board of management of Bayer CropScience AG in Monheim, Germany. “At the end of the day, this is what we feel our company is all about – innovation.
Condon said the company has been around as Bayer for more than 150 years. “You don’t get to survive and I should say thrive for 150 years unless you are constantly developing new ways of doing things, constantly innovating, and that’s what the heart and soul of our company is.”
His appearance in Memphis came in the middle of a busy week for Condon. The day before he helped open another research facility in West Sacramento, Calif. Later, he and other officials visited with Mid-South area farmers about herbicide-resistant weeds and insecticide-resistant pests.
All told, Bayer CropScience plans to make nearly $1 billion in capital investments in such facilities as the Biologics Business site in California, new greenhouse facilities in Memphis and at its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and in production facilities in Muskegon, Mich.; Mobile, Ala.; and Kansas City, Mo.
Condon says Bayer CropScience is willing to make such investments because it is optimistic about the development potential for the agricultural markets and its potential for delivering new solutions for sustainable agriculture.
“We are convinced of the long-term growth potential of the agricultural markets despite increasing volatility," he said, speaking at the company’s annual press conference in Monheim, Germany on Sept. 17.
"We expect the worldwide market for agricultural inputs of crop protection products, seeds and traits to grow to around EUR 100 billion by 2020, up from EUR 50 billion in 2008," he said, citing a growing need for sustainable farming solutions.
Condon said between 2013 and 2016 Bayer CropScience is planning capital expenditures of some EUR 700 million or $1 billion in North America and approximately EUR 400 million in Latin America and Asia Pacific.
In Memphis, Condon said it was a “big thing” for Bayer CropScience to invest at the Agricenter not only because of the local facility the company put up and expanded there but because it is a facility that will help the company worldwide.
“It plays a crucial role in what we do overall at Bayer CropScience as a company, and it’s a key part of our strategy,” said Condon.
For agricultural innovation to be successful, Condon says, the company is planning to try to intensify the public dialogue about the need for and the benefits of science and innovation in agriculture.
"Sustainable agriculture today delivers a level of food safety and security that is unmatched in the history of mankind. Many people take abundant food for granted," said Condon. "But the system is fragile; it needs constant innovation and society’s support to ensure that the world has enough to eat."
One example of how the company wants to accomplish that goal is the new online platform "Farming’s Future Dialogues" (http://FarmingsFutureDialogues.com), providing a forum for discussions on agricultural topics. With its new "Bayer Forward Farming" model farms, the company also offers the opportunity for deep insights into best-practice sustainable agricultural solutions.
“To help secure the future of food, we want to engage the leaders of the future”, Condon said. “"That is why we want to inspire young people to learn about food and farming with an Agricultural Education Program."