The modern agribusiness must be nimble under a barrage of challenges – develop new products, keep atop of crop trends to predict future farmer needs and steer its way through an ever-changing regulatory environment. These are just a few topics that remain top-of-mind for Jim Blome, Bayer CropScience CEO.
Blome, who grew up on a farm in Hubbard, Iowa, serves as president & CEO for Bayer CropScience LP and is the head of Crop Protection for the North American region. Here is a recap of a recent conversation with Blome and Farm Journal Media editors.
The seed and chemical industries are highly competitive. How does Bayer make a name and set itself apart?
We have a great service organization in the field. People know Bayer for the aspirin, but in the agriculture field, our customers know us because we bring sound science to the field. We bring good trust in brands over a long period of time, and we continue to do so. Between now and 2022, we will bring 30 new grower innovations to the market place. We continue to lead the marketplace in patents and new innovations.
What are the challenges of getting new products to the farm?
We do our primary research in the bigger markets because that’s where innovation pays off more quickly. That also leads to innovation in the horticulture markets and others. We focus on meeting grower needs.
But, in addition to developing new products and registering them, we also have to defend and do more studies with new science on old products. That siphons some of our investment opportunities for new research. We gladly do that and we’re lucky at Bayer because of our new innovations and successes, we have discontinued or divested a lot of our older technology, rather than defend it. We have the luxury of moving on to new innovations.
We can tell you what our product line will look like for the next 10 years, because that’s how long it takes to bring to market. If it’s not in the regulatory process today, it’s not going to be here in 10 years. That puts a lot of demands on us to know where the market is going to be in 10 to 20 years.
With lower commodity prices, do you expect the seed industry to continue to consolidate?
Growers expand their farming operations in downturns, not upturns. Downturns always create opportunities and that’s going to be similar on our level. We will continue to see consolidation in our industry. We’re at a point in time where there are only six companies globally that can research, discover and bring to the market a new corn or soybean herbicide. Really own five still do that, but six have the capability. As you see the cost of the registering process go up and timelines spread out and the demand for newer technology come to the marketplace, I think you will see more consolidation.