Syngenta's bold ag goal

30 Nov, 2015 01:00 AM
Syngenta Growth Awards winners on the UK leg of the July study tour inspecting crop trials on a farm in Cambridgeshire.
Public perceptions about food, land sustainability and corporate responsibility are big issues
Syngenta Growth Awards winners on the UK leg of the July study tour inspecting crop trials on a farm in Cambridgeshire.

SUCCESS in the multi-billion dollar farm chemical business is almost as much about winning support from urban consumers and supermarket executives as winning farmer loyalty with the best new products or advice to help yields.

While a plethora of generic copycat chemical products have added significantly to the competitivenes of the agricultural marketplace, leading name crop protection players are also fighting onanother front to convince a much bigger audience why their businesses are doing good for farmers, and the whole planet.

Crop protection giant Syngenta's "Good Growth Plan" is a case in point, developed to take the company's responsibilities well beyond selling spray products.

By 2020 Syngenta is promising to lift productivity by 20 per cent for the world's major crops without using more water, land or inputs.

Much of that yield improvement is likely to involve a 50pc lift in the productivity of 20 million smallholder farmers in the developing world, but it also includes improving farmland biodiversity and management efficiency elsewhere.

The Good Growth Plan strategy is confronting the challenge of a rapidly growing and hungry world population by helping farmers lift production efficiency, farm safety and sustainability, and rehabilitating degraded land.

The plan, launched two years ago, now features heavily in the big corporate's goals and business culture.

Syngenta has a leading 20pc share of the international crop protection market and is averaging about 600 new product releases to farmers every year.

But when a select team of farmers and agronomists from Australia and New Zealand toured Europe with company officials in July, their "take home" messages were not just about the company's $1.4 billion global research budget or the intricate processes involved in tackling agricultural weeds, diseases and pests.

"Public perceptions about food, land sustainability and corporate responsibility are big issues around the world, particularly in Europe," said large-scale southern Queensland vegetable grower Growth Awards winner, Matt Hood, from Rugby Farm, Gatton.

"Syngenta has clearly worked out it needs to be on the front foot with the whole community.

"To be successful and credible in the farm chemical business these days means getting much closer to understanding your farmer customers' concerns and business priorities, and putting a lot of effort into improving the general public's perception of what you do and what good agricultural management is all about."

Mr Hood was one of 10 winners of last year's Growth Awards, which acknowledge farmers and agronomic advisers who have provento be innovative and leaders in their contribution to local productivity, sustainability or their agricultural district community.

The 2015 winners will be announced next week from a finals shortlist of 24.

The awards are a component of the Good Growth Plan, which acknowledges the world's ballooning population will eat more food in the next 50 years than was produced in the past 10,000.

Climate change and increasing constraints on land and water availablity for farming will make the task of feeding the planet even harder.

As part of its Good Growth Plan agenda Syngenta gauges productivity and efficiency data from 80 volunteer "benchmark" farms across Australia (and 3600 worldwide) including yields, costs of production, time taken to apply crop protection products and a range of other information collated without identifying specific farmers involved.

"Our goal is to make people more efficient without increasing their overall costs, so we want to be sure new technology has a net benefit to their business, lifting their productivity at a cost that is acceptable," said Syngenta's Australasian corporate affairs head, Rob Cairns.

"It's also about stewardship and promoting biodiversity to improve farmland - making sure we train our own staff and farmers to understand the best and safest way to use new technology sustainably."

Rising global demand for more food was clashing with increasing community pressures on agricultural businesses, making it essential to "tell the story" about what was being achieved on farms.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

is the national agribusiness writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media


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