Seed World

Bayer, Monsanto Technology Leads Stress Importance of Innovation

Bayer's Adrian Percy and Monsanto's Robb Fraley share their perspective on why the combination of the two businesses is important to farmers.

Adrian Percy of Bayer and Robb Fraley of Monsanto came together today (March 2) to spotlight what the acquisition means for farmers at Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas.

“This deal between Monsanto and Bayer is all about innovation — accelerating innovation and growth,” said Percy, head of research and development for the division of Crop Science. “I have great respect for what Monsanto has achieved, particularly in the seeds area and with their great biotech expertise over the years. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve at Bayer with our crop protection activities. Bringing these two parts together allows us to create an innovation engine.”

Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer, compared the innovation that will happen from the combination of these two companies to that of shopping on Amazon.

“If we are breeding corn, soybeans, cotton, tomatoes or peppers, we know every single gene in that seed,” Fraley said. “We are making better and better combinations, and we are often complementing that with new biotechnology traits. We are developing corn seeds for the future that are going to have 15 or 20 genes.

“We are coating those seeds with seed treatments, crop protectants and biologicals. With the precision ag tools, we are making recommendations to growers on where to plant, what populations to use and giving a lot of agronomic advice.

He explained that with the data science tools and daily use of satellite imagery, growers and crop advisers can begin to pick out early disease or insect problems.

“It’s natural now to bring the chemistry in and the recommendations to integrate all of these tools for farmers so they are using the right products, at the right time, that complements the seed, the genetics and the traits,” Fraley said. “What these tools will do for farming is what Amazon has done for shopping.

“I hate Christmas shopping in the stores, so I use Amazon — there’s lots of choice, complete transparency, tracking, efficiency. On Amazon, they start making recommendations on what you can do better and how you can shop smarter. That same kind of toolkit is now available to farmers.”

He said that by bringing Bayer’s and Monsanto’s solutions together, they can dramatically improve yield, reduce farmer’s costs and help simplify decision-making.

Percy gave the in-field example of herbicide tolerance.

“Monsanto has been very successful with the herbicide-tolerant systems that they’ve developed, and we’ve got a great suite of herbicides that we continue to work on,” Percy said. “But one of problems with these systems is the coordination of the development has never really been enabled.

“We’ve consistently had herbicides coming into the market, and then traits arriving a decade later. With this combination, we have the opportunity to co-develop and work consecutively — on one side the trait and on one side the herbicide.”

Just what is this combined investment in innovation that the two companies are referring to? Percy said the combined research and development group will be approximately 10,000 researchers, technicians and scientists. Currently, Monsanto has about 5,000, and Bayer, too, has about 5,000.

Together, the two companies would have a combined research and development spending of 2.5 billion euros, or $2.6 billion. which Percy said he believes is absolutely necessary.

“We need more innovation in agriculture,” Perce added. “We need more innovation for growers to overcome a lot of the issues they face in the field. But we also need this innovation to drive greater food production and to overcome a lot of the food security issues.