It was 30 years ago this week that individuals sat lined in white chairs awaiting the groundbreaking ceremony for Monsanto Company's Chesterfield Village Research Center. Today, the scene replayed itself as the company drew attention to its $400 million expansion at that same research facility.
"This is also a celebration of how we play our small part in serving farmers, farmers close to here and farmers around the world," said Hugh Grant, chairman and CEO of Monsanto.
With the original buildings behind him, Grant shared how the agriculture landscape was much different when they were erected. In 1984, "there were four-and-a-half billion people in our little blue planet," he said. "The average corn yield was 104 bushel. The average soy yield was 28 bushels."
Today, there are more than 7 billion people on the planet. Average corn yield is 150 bushels per acre, with average soybean yield at 40 bushels. "We have made significant progress," he added.
Still he said this investment helps his company move forward to meet the world food demand for the next 30 years. With a projected 9 billion people expected in 2050, Grant said there are challenges for farmers to overcome on their way to producing more food on the same acres with fewer inputs and better nutritional value.
He pointed to the convergence of biology and information technology to help growers with the daunting task. "We look more and more at how we optimize every plant…and how we serve every person," he said. "The work done here now and in the future will help drive that."
The new facility will be home to some of those biology and information technology programs. Technology like BioDirect, which uses agricultural biologicals topically applied for crop protection, will be found here too. It offers weed, insect and virus control.
The expansion will also house Monsanto's Integrated Farming Systems. This platform allows science, data technology and precision technology to converge and offers solutions for individual farmer's fields. Its first product is FieldScripts in corn.
The Chesterfield Village expansion is expected to be complete in 2017. The expansion also includes a conference center, research building, 36 greenhouses, 13 controlled environmental agriculture rooms and 250 labs.
However, Grant said it would take more than Monsanto to feed the world. It will take the collaborative effort of non-governmental organizations, governmental organizations and academia.
"I think there is an opportunity in the next three decades to reach out and use our combined skills to improve the quality and the magnitude of yields the hungry planet is going to need," he said.