Charting a business course is critical in a competitive environment and this week Bayer Crop Science rolled out its strategy going forward during its annual press conference, held in Monheim, Germany. Navigation points for that course include tackling weed resistance, developing new biological-based platforms to complement continuing innovation in crop protection and push forward on a seeds and trait business that has expanded to include soybeans and wheat.
Liam Condon rolled out the program during the plenary session, and explored the challenges ahead for agriculture, which includes ramping up to feed 9 billion people - and more - by 2050. Theme for the meeting: Shaping the Future of Farming.
"If you walk around Europe," Condon says, "it does not feel like there are a lot more people coming to the planet." He says a visit to China or India and any of those country's rapidly growing "mega cities" would change your mind.
"This is a huge challenge for society that we're facing here," he adds.
As he outlined the challenge, which is top of mind for a lot of companies in agriculture these days, he points to the rise of the middle class and its higher need for protein. That extra protein need will stress global agriculture's ability to meet the challenge. He did acknowledge that part of the solution will be to fix a problem that plagues developing countries - insufficient storage - where in India 40% of fruits and veggies are lost each year to inadequate storage.
Key issues, Condon told media at the conference, include a reduction in land available per capita - it's fallen from about an acre per person in 1950 to about a third of an acre today. However, agriculture is challenged to push production up 70%.
He explained the five elements that guide Bayer CropScience for the future:
* A focus on innovation - "Small step changes and incremental growth will not be enough to meet the challenge," Condon says.
* Enable farmers big and small - "It's not just big farms that we will work with globally," he notes.
* Driving sustainable innovation
* Enhancing human health - "Healthy plants impact the health of human beings," he says.
* No single company can deal with the challenge alone - in this Condon explained that Bayer CropScience will be working not only with others in private industry but also with other groups including non-governmental organizations and more.
"The four pillars of our strategy include enhancing crop protection, strengthening customer centricity, leading the way in innovation and expanding our seed business," he notes.
Primary issue: Weed resistance
After outlining the challenges ahead, Condon turned his attention to a topic that might have surprised many: resistant weeds. "A huge issue today is the issue of weed management," Condon says. "Weeds kill a large amount of the harvest and it is a large problem for farmers today."
He notes it already affects 50% of growers in the United States and a dramatic animated graphic showed the rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds in the United States - though it is a global issue. "Nature always finds a way," Condon says. "No single product will do the job [of controlling weeds]. Our approach is diversity."