Seed World

Meet Syngenta’s New Head of North American Seeds

Eric Boeck, regional director of North American Seeds for Syngenta, keeps growers top-of-mind in his new position.

2022 brought changes throughout different sectors of business, as companies reflected on the last two years of the pandemic. What’s on the other side as we get used to a new normal? What adjustments are required for companies to stay competitive? How will companies evolve their leadership to help get through to the other side?

This summer Syngenta announced leadership succession plans as some individuals retired, or moved on to new roles in the company. Along with the change in succession came a new regional director for the company’s North American Seeds business.

Eric Boeck might be a familiar name to you — with 28 years under his belt in the seed business. Though 25 of those years were with Pioneer — now Corteva — the last four years were spent working as head of marketing for Syngenta Seeds North America.

What’s kept him in the industry for almost three decades? On top of his love for the industry and the challenges he helps solve, he’s driven to reimagine the seed business.

“We want to be the No. 1 modernized farmer seed experience in the industry,” Boeck, who officially took over the role on July 1, says. “That spans products to people to digital platforms — the whole support network that a farmer has through our trusted retailers and dealers.”

For decades, Boeck says seed has been sold in the same way, but as the industry progresses forward, he believes farmers are looking for something different.

“The table stakes are high for consistently yielding and harvestable products, right?” Boeck asks. “But, after that, they’re looking for more of an experience — someone who really cares about them and who looks out for their needs proactively.”

That’s the No. 1 thing needed to modernize seed selling today. Not Amazon speed sales, but better and improved customer service to help growers find better ways to do what they do best: feed the globe.

Fortunately for Boeck, moving from a marketing role to this new leadership role didn’t take much of a change. His priority is still the same: ensuring customers have the best experience possible and access to high-quality seeds.

“The marketing organization involves a lot of what the overall seed business does,” he says. “In addition to the traditional elements of marketing, there’s also the product side, which includes product strategy and product marketing. When you think about building and operating a seed business, the marketing organization is kind of like the glue that holds everyone together.”

But in his new regional director role, they’re three things on Boeck’s mind as priorities for Syngenta in the coming year:

  1. Unleashing the talent within the organization
  2. Creating a modernized seed experience
  3. Creating sustainable corn and soybean growth

“We have a great collection of talent — some of the industry’s best talent — on our team,” Boeck says. “We want to make sure each of them can contribute to farmer success at their best and highest level, but we have to do that by having a really solid execution with the farmer at the farm gate.”

Especially in a post-COVID world, Boeck says investing and putting time into employees has been incredibly important to keeping the business running.

He’s found that spending more time with employees through employee roundtables have helped to show not only his visibility but help him engage more in listening and understanding their needs.

“Things aren’t the same today as they were pre-COVID,” he says. “Everyone’s gone through that COVID fog, and now we live in a different world — a different world that still serves farmers, but now we must approach it a bit differently. To help our talent, we must listen better.”

From there, it all comes down to knowing your audience you’re working with — in this case, the grower customer — to better anticipate their needs as a team.

“The very first step of marketing is to make sure that you understand farmer needs — that’s the very first step of devising a good marketing plan,” Boeck says. “For me, I think that’s the essence of Syngenta Seeds. It’s not really complicated: we’re in the business of selling corn and soybean seed to farmers. If you’re going to sell and service them, you must understand them.”

That means taking to the field to talk and receive feedback from customers, but also from the Syngenta team, since many of their talent farms as well.

“There’s nothing like hearing about farmer challenges and about farmer needs directly from their mouth,” Boeck says.

“We’re surrounded by an abundance of information that helps us make good decisions and strategically set up the seeds business for the future,” Boeck continues. “When you’ve met one farmer, you’ve met one farmer — meaning every farmer is different. The reality is that if we’re going to be able to be a great supplier and a great partner for farmers, we have to understand their needs. That way, we can help our sellers, retail partners and seed advisors meet those needs as well.”