“Digital innovation is meaningless if it does not meet the concrete, practical needs of the farmer”


Published on 30.11.2021

What is the role of innovation at Syngenta?

R&D is the heart of our business, which is upstream from the farmer. We think about how to provide solutions that meet the needs of farmers, the industry and consumers, because our primary business is plant protection and our raison d’être is to unlock its potential.
In today’s changing world, farmers find themselves ‘in demand’ by the general public who are interested in the ‘how’. As an upstream supplier, this puts innovation back at the centre of the game as we are facing accelerated change.
Climate change is also a major challenge for agriculture. While agriculture has a share of responsibility, like all other sectors, we must not forget that it is also a solution thanks to carbon capture and storage.
Innovation must make it possible to respond to three interdependent issues. Firstly, profitability: farmers must be able to make a living from their activity, and secondly, agriculture must also be productive to meet the world’s growing food needs. Finally, the sustainability dimension is essential to meet the two previous points and to have more sustainable and resilient farms. These three points will help meet the different and changing needs of consumers. To address this, Syngenta will invest $2 billion in disruptive technologies by 2025.

What can agricultural data contribute to these different challenges?

The main value of data is the same everywhere: it is its calibration. How can we ensure that data talks to each other? How can we collectively make data intelligent? Shared standards, cross-referenced and combined extractions will produce intelligence and will make it possible to feed decision-making tools.
In plant breeding, genotypes and phenotypes have long been brought together. Vines, for example, are worked on the basis of meteorological and historical observations. We make predictions in order to adopt the right treatment. It is incredibly complex.
It is therefore necessary to decompartmentalise. Our job is to bring innovation but the ecosystem is more complex than it seems. This is why we need to develop a combinatorial approach to solutions and tools. And here, digital innovation is meaningless if it does not meet the concrete, practical needs of the farmer. Agdatahub is part of this framework: collaboration is the way to success in order to move the lines.

In your opinion, what are the challenges facing agriculture today?

In France, as in the rest of the world, climate change is the major challenge. But we must not forget to answer the complex daily question of the farmer, that of what to sow, how to protect and when to harvest. Our capacity for innovation will give us the keys to respond to these challenges. Digital data must help us to be more intelligent collectively. On the farm, it must help farmers and breeders save time, to treat only what needs to be treated and to adopt treatments. The strength of digital technology lies in its ability to respond to these precise points of difficulty.

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