VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA — With consumers caring more about the origin of their food and farmers facing increasing pressures, Corteva Agriscience is working to find solutions that benefit both, said Jim Collins, the company’s chief executive officer.
“The ag supply chain is being reversed engineered with the consumer not at the end of that chain but right up front,” Collins said during the Canadian Crops Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “We call it table to farm. It’s all about closing that gap between what consumers want and what farmers can deliver in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.”
Corteva Agriscience, offering seed, crop protection and digital solutions, became an independent public company on June 1, 2019. It was previously the Agriculture Division formed with the merger of Dow and DuPont completed in 2017.
Collins noted that farmers are facing more challenges from multiple angles, including regulatory hurdles, climate change, unpredictable weather, restrictive trade regimes and shifting consumer preferences.
“As we built Corteva, all of these elements help shape the company that we wanted to become,” he said. “Table to farm puts our purpose into action. If there’s a gap between those consumer expectations and farmers capability, our job is to deliver a solution that fills that gap to ensure farmers prosper and consumers get what they want, and we leave the environment better than we found it.”
The concept is framed around four key concerns: consumer expectations, mounting economic pressure on farms, escalating trade tensions and a growing call to action to address climate change, Collins said.
Consumers want to know more about the food they are eating, where was it sourced, who grew it, under what conditions and what kinds of inputs were used. Some are seeking alternatives to animal protein while others attaining middle class status are interested in eating more animal protein.
Corteva is exploring how crops, like canola and wheat, can address global issues such as health and nutrition, Collins said. It already offers products such as Plenish high oleic soybeans with no trans fats and reduced saturated fats.
The company also is working to enhance protein content in canola meal, which will help “future proof” the crop, he said. It also will open a domestic monogastrich market currently unavailable to canola and displace protein that is imported at a much higher cost.
Consumer expectations impact what farmers grow and what they use on their fields. Across the board, farmers live in a huge world of uncertainty, Collins said.
“One thing we can’t do as an industry, we can’t add to those pressures,” he said.
In meetings, farmers have expressed concerns about consolidation in the agriculture industry and how that would impact their choices.
“We listened and we are offering more choice to farmers than ever before,” Collins said. “In 2019 in Canada we introduced seven new crop protection products for farmers. In 2020, we launched three more uniquely Canadian tools to support farmers. We are laser focused on providing farmers choice to address those consumer expectations.”
More work needs to be done on educating consumers about modern farming practices. One study showed that 91% of Canadians know little to nothing on the topic, but 60% are interested in learning more.
“What is concerning is this lack of knowledge is driving regulatory decisions and limiting farmers ability to operate,” Collins said. “We have a responsibility to help bridge that knowledge gap.”
Trade tensions are also of concern and Collins said trade policies should benefit growers and consumers. If that’s not happening, the industry needs to push for better policies, he said.
“We need to remain vigilant in examination of fair and just trade,” Collins said. “The world cannot afford to have agriculture politicized through unjust trade restrictions.”
Finally, climate change and global food security are some of the greatest challenges facing everyone.
“We believe that farmers are the solution to mitigate climate change,” Collins said. “They already employ some of the most innovative measures in sustainable farming practices. We’re taking steps to scale those initiatives beyond individual fences.”
However, innovators must be given the flexibility to develop new seed and crop protections that can help the industry become more climate positive, he said.
“Progress will only come if we develop a regulatory environment that allows farmers greater flexibility, not more restrictions,” Collins said.