By Jesus Madrazo
Vice President, Corporate Engagement
(This article is based on a speech given at the Agribusiness Council of Indiana on Jan. 28.)
I am here today to talk about topics we all care deeply about: agriculture, innovation and the future. When you think about 2020, it sounds far off in the distant future, but it’s just six short years away.
What I think is exciting is that the future for agriculture is incredibly bright and increasingly interconnected.
Our planet is becoming more populous – by 2050, we’ll have more than 9 billion people. We face challenges of climate change and declining access to arable land. At the same time, our planet is becoming more urban and more affluent, as more people in developing areas of the world are enjoying better wages than ever before and are able to improve their quality of life in many ways.
These trends are reshaping every aspect of the world we live in today, and are influencing the world our children and grandchildren will inherit.
Perhaps no other industry feels the weight of these trends more than agriculture. And perhaps no where does the opportunity to capitalize on these trends shine brighter than right here in the Midwest.
We’ve certainly seen and felt this at my company Monsanto, 100 percent focused on agriculture and the success of farmers. It’s at the core of everything we do 24/7.
I’m going to take a moment to underline this point… our single focus at Monsanto is on agriculture and the success of farmers around the world.
We’re also committed to Indiana and the farmers who live and work here. We have more than 700 employees working across the state at several facilities. We also value our supply chain and ag retail partners, many of whom are in the room today. I want to thank you for helping us serve our farmer customers in Indiana and neighboring states.
As we look forward toward 2020 and beyond, we see agriculture is truly a global business and one more and more technology-driven and sophisticated.
This will only continue. From cutting edge science in a research lab focused on drought, to improved information technology on the farm, agriculture is a vibrant, growing and innovative industry with the ability to change the world and improve lives.
Our core focus at Monsanto has traditionally been on providing farmers products through breeding, biotech and agronomics that help protect yield. Earlier this month we announced our annual research pipeline advances. Some of the most breakthrough progress was delivered from the company’s newest technology platforms – our Integrated Farming Systems and our agricultural biologicals platforms. This year we had a record 29 products advance in our pipeline.
And the products in the final stages of our pipeline have the potential to be on the farm by 2020 or earlier. As products get closer to launch, farmers have an opportunity to see these products on their fields through our Ground Breakers on-farm testing program. Last year, about 30 Indiana farmers had a chance to use FieldScripts, a product that helps identify the best corn hybrids and provide a variable rate planting prescription for each field. We’ve had positive feedback and we’re very excited about its potential.
Also this season, Indiana farmers will have an opportunity to plant Vistive® Gold soybeans in Ground Breakers trials. Visitive Gold features a trait that allows the soybeans to produce oil with low saturated fat and zero trans fat. It’s a product with direct consumer benefits.
We are also planning to have a demo plot of our Roundup Ready 2 Xtend™ soybeans, a dicamba and glyphosate-tolerant crop system for weed control. Farmers will have an opportunity to see how this product could help manage hard to control weeds and improve their crop yield.
As we commercialize new products, we are committed to stewarding these products properly. This means working with farmers to share best practices and making sure products have all necessary regulatory approvals before commercialization.
I want to switch gears now and talk about a new area we are investing in – the intersection of data and agriculture.
We’ve seen the power of data science transform entire industries. Just think of what computers and data have contributed to the medicine, engineering, manufacturing and retail sectors, and each of our own daily lives.
The overall concept of using data to manage risk has great potential in agriculture.
Every year, farmers must make more than 40 key decisions, just to plant and harvest a single crop.
Many of these decisions are based on intuition and past experience, but data science, information and analytics can help add precision to those decisions and details, which will help increase efficiency and unlock yield.
You may have heard about our recent acquisition of the Climate Corporation, a leader in applying data and information science to agriculture.
They have developed some really cool technologies that crunch terrific amounts of data related to weather, agronomics and other information. When you think about Climate’s capabilities, and our own at Monsanto, the opportunities to help farmers manage risk are exciting.
We have combined Climate Corporation, our Integrated Farming Systems, and Precision Planting into one integrated business platform within Monsanto. The biggest opportunity for the team will be to work together to bring new tools to farmers, like FieldScripts and Climate Pro and precision planting upgrades.
This is a new area with new products and new questions quite frankly. I want to assure you of our commitment to data privacy and data security.
We understand that data privacy and security are important to everyone, and we respect the privacy of farmer information in the products and services we offer. Farmers have the right to decide whether to provide information to us and how their information can be used to develop the best products for them.
We’ve talked to many farmers and industry organizations about this and have developed a FieldScripts Farmer Privacy Commitment that is available on our website.
We’ve gotten positive feedback on this approach, and will continue to engage in dialogue…I’m sure there is much to learn. Both Monsanto and Climate Corporation believe that data privacy and security must be a top priority. We understand this is vitally important for our farmer-customers. By partnering in the right way, with the right priorities, we both believe that data science has tremendous potential to boost productivity.
So I just went through a lot of information…looking ahead, farmers in 2020 will have many more products and tools available to help them manage their farms.
So, with all of these new technologies coming, a vital question to ask is, who will be on the farm in 2020? Who will be using technologies?
Part 2 will be posted Wednesday.