A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the opening of Pioneer Hi-Bred's new $40 million state-of-the-art crop genetics research facility at Johnston in central Iowa April 9. Officials of the seed firm say the new Beaver Creek center further supports the commitment of Pioneer and its corporate parent, DuPont, to increasing agricultural productivity and food security worldwide.
Approximately 400 new jobs are being created through increased research and development capabilities housed in the 200,000 square foot building. Company officials say the center is already attracting talent from across the country to develop the next generation of biotech seeds.
"Beaver Creek will take DuPont's research and development efforts in seed and plant genetics to the next level and ensure that we are consistently providing new solutions and products to farmers and communities around the world," said Pioneer president Paul Schickler. "Pioneer is dedicated to providing the right product for the right acre, and this new facility in Johnston advances that mission."
New facility is devoted to developing next generation of biotech seeds
Experts in plant physiology, molecular biology and bioinformatics at the facility will work on plant breeding and developing new transgenic products. Together these groups are focused on discovering, developing and testing the newest products and traits in Pioneer's research and development pipeline.
All the fancy equipment and creative thinking in bioscience at the Beaver Creek center has a purpose beyond pure research, of course. Pioneer strives to stay abreast of its competitors in the seed and biotech business in the never ending struggle to increase yields to meet the food, feed and fuel needs of an increasing global population.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, state agriculture secretary Bill Northey and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley joined Schickler at the dedication ceremony. They all cited the need for cooperation between private industry and government in making scientific and social progress a reality for the world tomorrow.
Creating jobs and growth, investing in research and in skilled workers
"On behalf of the state of Iowa, I join Pioneer and its employees in celebrating this exciting new research facility and the jobs it brings to the state," said Branstad. "DuPont is a global company with a vision for the future and its growth in Iowa affirms its dedication to creating economic opportunities here. This is an example of the economic growth that will keep Iowa youth in the state to be a part of a global company working with farmers and scientists to help feed the world."
In Iowa, Pioneer has increased its workforce by 1,400 positions in the last five years, bringing its employment to 3,400 in Iowa and 2,800 in central Iowa, mostly at Johnston, the suburb where Pioneer's headquarters campus is located on the north edge of Des Moines. Pioneer will add another 100-plus jobs when it completes expansion and renovation of its greenhouse complex nearby.
The town of Johnston, the city of Des Moines and Pioneer Hi-Bred go back a long way, almost nine decades from when Pioneer founder Henry A. Wallace, later U.S. secretary of agriculture and U.S. vice president, began growing the revolutionary new hybrid corn for the business Wallace and a group of Des Moines investors established in 1926. "Nearly 90 years ago, Wallace started Pioneer in a field not far from where this new building now stands," said Schickler. "When he started this business he focused on improving productivity so farmers throughout the world could improve their livelihood and serve in our purpose to help feed people. That vision of Henry A. Wallace more than 90 years ago is still our vision today."
Great challenges ahead in feeding and fueling a growing global population
Pioneer's footprint has grown. "We now have more than 12,000 employees worldwide and do business in more than 90 countries," said Schickler. "We have an exciting future as does all of agriculture, helping to make farmers everywhere more productive."
To feed and provide improved nutrition for a growing world population is indeed a daunting challenge today. "This new facility will help us innovate and bring the next set of agriculture advances to the world," said Schickler. "We'll need that if we're going to feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit Earth 40 years from now. That will be two million more mouths to feed than we have in the world today."
Grassley thanked Pioneer for the good paying jobs the new facility is bringing to Iowa and cited the humanitarian aspect of improving seed production. He noted some people continue to criticize biotechnology and modern ag production practices. "To those people I say thank goodness our yields and efficiency in producing food has grown," said Grassley. "We've seen a steady rise in corn production as bushels per acre have gone up significantly and more predictably over the last 15 years compared to the ups and downs of the previous 100 years. This is something that has to be done if we are going to avoid social chaos that would result if we don't have an adequate food supply."
Research is leading to more than just bigger yield. "The new biotech traits are helping protect against diseases and pests too, so we don't have to use as many pesticides, which helps the environment," noted Northey. "Scientists are adding end-use traits too, to help increase the value of corn and soybeans. Research is indeed a long-term investment and commitment. They can't just turn it on and off."