“Today, we sell our seeds to growers who otherwise grow organically, but there are growers that need certified organic seed. With our organic program, we want to make sure that we can provide our genetics to a variety of growers,” says Inci Dannenberg, the Global Head of Vegetable Seeds at Bayer Crop Science.
In September 2021, Bayer announced its plans to launch its organic vegetable seeds portfolio to increase growers’ access to certified organic markets. As Dannenberg explains, Bayer is now launching its organic seed program beginning with tomato, sweet pepper, and cucumber production in greenhouse and high-tech glasshouse environments in North America, Mexico, Spain, and Italy with potential for future expansion As Dannenberg explains, the European organic certification process does not allow substrate-based production to be certified organic whereas North America is generally more flexible.
“With our organic program, we want to make sure that we can provide our genetics to a variety of growers. We want to understand the demand and make sure that we are pacing correctly with what the market is asking for,” says Dannenberg.
“Vegetables by Bayer” – bringing De Ruiter and Seminis legacies together
Bayer’s organic seed varieties will be sold under the Seminis and De Ruiter vegetable seed brands, both of each were brought under Bayer’s name followed the company’s acquisition of Monsanto Co. in 2018. Together, Seminis and De Ruiter are the cornerstones of “Vegetables by Bayer” and encompass more than simply seeds – the brand also encompasses digital tools, tailored solutions, and so on.
“As we came together as a new organization in 2018, we had the opportunity to look at what we stand for. Fruit and vegetables are a strategic pillar for Bayer that ties closely to our mission of advancing health and nutrition by ensuring access to the vegetables that people want to eat,” Dannenberg notes.
Macrotrends and near-term shocks in produce
Like a kite in the wind, the produce sector has had to contend with various shocks in both the near and long term. Pandemic-related shocks should come as no surprise, as lockdowns forced a shift towards retail markets. Adding further pressure was consumers’ demand for products that are high quality, locally produced, snackable and have a long shelf-life. Such demand was already increasing pre-pandemic and has only increased over the past two years,
“We are always striving for health for all, hunger for none. We are seeing an increased interest in health and nutrition, so designing products that align with that is our target for innovation,” explains Dannenberg.
Certain long-term trends are also dominating the produce industry, with particularly high growth in the protected agriculture segment compared to field production. As Dannenberg explains, this is likely linked to the desire and need to control more environmental parameters and avoid the extreme weather conditions of field agriculture. Similarly, growers are demanding an increased level of environmental resilience in crop varieties, such as resilience to water stress, high temperatures and high soil salinities.
Dannenberg also notes that there is a big growth opportunity for smallholder agriculture, particularly in Asia. Also, Bayer’s processing segment is seeing an increased push for products that are readily accessible during disruptions in food supply. This means having varieties and products that maintain their quality during transportation and long-term storage (i.e., canned, frozen).
With respect to near-term shocks, today’s high energy prices are clear example of a shock affecting all segments of the supply chain. In the face of political instability, as seen with the current Ukraine-Russia conflict, export channels are subject to change which puts pressure on growers to adapt their production to different markets.
“It is a complicated market in that different varieties do not work everywhere. By incorporating digital tools and analytics, we cam make better decisions to meet market needs and reduce our input use to make food
Author: Rose Seguin
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