A commitment to personal service drives Pioneer
Successful growers have always lived by the "right product, right acre" philosophy. This simple approach to management decisions is also paying off these days for Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business.
"Right product, right acre is not just a marketing slogan, it is a way of life," says Alejandro Munoz, vice president, Americas and Global Production, for Pioneer. "Growers know their operations best. Every soil type, every operation, every farmer is different."
Munoz might be an executive, but sitting behind a desk is not his style. He’s known for showing up at farmer breakfast focus groups that involve lots of coffee and conversation about product likes and dislikes.
His Costa Rican upbringing seasons his speech and his work ethic. He remembers when family sugarcane fields suffered from drought. He relishes his years spent in Mexico helping farmers make the conversion from open-pollinated to hybrid corn. Today, 31 years into his career at Pioneer, Munoz still vibrates with the enthusiasm of a grade-schooler who knows the answer to an important question. "I try to be in the field three days a week," he says. "There’s no substitute for getting my boots dirty and talking to customers."
Market position. Customers are buying the personal approach. Pioneer’s corn seed share has gained ground during the past two years after losses from 2002 to 2006.
Pioneer soybean sales have climbed to become the market leader with a 31% share in 2010. Alfalfa, canola, rice, sorghum, sunflower and wheat seed fill in the product lineup.
Pending regulatory approval, Pioneer hopes to offer two corn refuge products for 2012 planting. Optimum AcreMax is designed for aboveground insect protec-tion and is anticipated to have a 5% integrated refuge level. Optimum AcreMax Xtra, for above- and belowground insect protection, is anticipated to have a 10% integrated refuge level.
With his understanding of corn plant science, Henry A. Wallace founded Pioneer in 1926. DuPont purchased 20% of the company in 1997 and finished the acquisition two years later. Munoz calls it a great marriage. Today, 3,000 researchers and 100 research sites in 24 countries on six continents carry on the cause.
Proprietary in nature, Pioneer started loosening the reins in 2008 with the purchase of Curry Seed and by launching the PROaccess business strategy—a way to share its genetics through independent distributors.
Pioneer has since purchased AgVenture, Doebler’s, NuTech, Hoegemeyer Hybrids, Seed Consultants Inc., and Terral Seed. Burrus Hybrids (Power Plus brand) and Beck’s Hybrids (XL brand) remain as distributors only.
"We handpicked these companies. We knew their families and what they stand for. We didn’t remove them from the marketplace, we empowered them," Munoz says.
"It’s all about giving the farmer more choices," he adds. "We want each one of those brands to preserve what made it special. We do not want to make them Pioneer."
Product growth. The desire to provide more choice prompted Pioneer to increase localized seed testing across the U.S. in 2011 by 50% through IMPACT (Intensively Managed Product Advancement, Characterization and Training) trials. The cooperation between Pioneer’s research effort and sales organization is another "right product, right acre" move to help producers get the best results.
Munoz says tools such as the Accelerated Yield Technology (AYT) system are driving a tenfold increase in the number of inbreds that Pioneer research scientists generate.
"Our belly-to-belly sales structure has changed everything we do at Pioneer," Munoz says. "Our sales force and agronomists are all being trained to serve each farmer as an individual. We don’t want to simply sell you corn or soybeans, we want to be your partner over the long haul."