Bayer Corp., the North American subsidiary of the international giant that serves the agricultural community through its Bayer CropScience sub-group, has restructured that group to take a more holistic approach toward product development.
Robert Schrick, who is strategic business management leader-horticulture at Bayer CropScience, said the restructuring of the business units and the shifting of the company’s mind-set will produce a better and deeper relationship with growers. The restructuring of the business units, which began about a year ago, has the CropScience division divided into several sub-groups including broad acre crops, seeds and Schrick’s horticulture unit.
“We are looking at growers and the crops holistically and letting outcomes drive innovation,” he said.
While improving yields and reducing a specific pest pressure will always be an important result of any particular crop protection tool developed by the firm, Schrick said Bayer is taking an end-to-end look at the grower’s task in developing these tools. Bayer understands that the grower does not operate in a bubble and the goal is to help the grower produce a crop that not only has to be grown to the best cultural advantage but move through the supply chain and end up on the kitchen table.
Hence reducing pest pressure isn’t the only factor to be considered in product development. Schrick says Bayer is working with the growers to help them grow those products in a more sustainable way. This means closer contact with growers and partnering with them to develop crop protection tools that better fit their needs. It also means working hand in hand with other Bayer units, including the vegetable seed unit.
But Schrick was quick to point out that Bayer CropScience’s horticulture group is not changing its business structure with regard to selling its products to growers. Bayer will continue to work through the distributor network that it has always used to fill a grower’s specific needs.
The Bayer executive also readily admitted that “growers are a very independent group” and many are not interested in a one-to-one relationship with the manufacturer of their crop protection tools. That also is not Bayer’s goal. Schrick said the new approach involves a tremendous amount of marketing research to understand the needs and challenges of the many industry segments in which it operates. And then as the firm develops its portfolio to fit those challenges and needs, it will continue to work through the distributor network, which has the individual contact with growers.
He said that while there are many similarities between similar crops there are also differences. Citrus is citrus but California citrus growers and Florida citrus growers do have different disease pressure and different environmental issues to deal with. Bayer’s marketing research is drilling down deep to understand those crops and the pressures facing both the crops and the growers themselves.
Bayer continued to tout the newest product in its portfolio which is Luna fungicide. Luna, which received full registration in the United States in 2012, offers a new way to protect specialty crops from disease, as well as manage resistance. It has proven effective on many crops and currently is registered for several tree nuts as well as apple, cherries, potatoes, watermelon and wine grapes.
Schrick said Luna performed very well this past year, with great reports of a significant extension of shelf life in such items as apples and cherries. Bayer continues to work to expand its label. He said the label should be expanded to many more vegetable items in the United States by 2016.
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