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Q&A with Liam Condon

Head of the Crop Science division at Bayer talks about where he thinks the future of ag is going.

Liam Condon, president of the Crop Science division at Bayer, isn’t like most company presidents. When rumors of mergers and acquisitions were swirling, he was itching to talk to media. That’s how excited he was about the potential match with Monsanto.

When asked about the deal and why Bayer acquired  Monsanto, his response was that the two companies share similar goals and views. The ability to leverage the combination of research and development would lead to more innovation for farmers, says Condon.

Condon says he hopes the combination will create a customizable product portfolio with a comprehensive offering of seed and crop-protection products, a leading platform in digital farming, and leading innovation capabilities and R&D technology platforms.

SF: Why did the acquisition of Monsanto appeal to Bayer?

LC: We’re looking to increase productivity and pioneer new approaches to help farmers.

Today, Monsanto and Bayer both spend between 10% and 11% of sales on research and development. Combined, that’s $2.8 billion. My assumption, moving forward, is that level should be maintained, but we can achieve a lot more innovation together than as separate entities.

SF: How do you respond to those who say the acquisition will limit farmer options?

LC: The deal is not built on cost synergies. A lot of deals are, but this one is not.

It is about getting more out of R&D and getting more innovation to growers faster. We won’t do that by cutting back on R&D. It will be the focused area from an investment point of view and will result in more options.

There is already a lot of technology in seed and traits today, but with all of the new breeding techniques, new chemical approaches, and advances in biology, we have the opportunity to bring innovation to a whole new level. We’re investing in all of these areas and on top comes digitalization, which also requires significant investment. It makes sense to pool resources and ensure critical mass from a technology point of view.

We can bring more value to farmers through the development of entirely new and smarter solutions. Breakthrough innovation only happens when you work across scientific disciplines and technology platforms.

It’s going to be an interdisciplinary approach. It will require very, very significant investments.

SF: What excites you about the future?

LC: I’m a big believer in the potential that digital holds. We’re looking at it both outside and inside the company.We want to be able to connect all of the data that is available and interpret it more systematically.

Outside of the company, we see the opportunity to go toward an outcome-based model for farmers, which would help de-risk farming for growers and help ensure a sustainable income.

SF: How do you see agriculture changing?

LC: We want to create an outcome-based model. Instead of selling inputs, ultimately, we would sell a weed-free field, disease-free field, or a yield guarantee by selling a prescription for how to get there.

If the outcome didn’t happen, then we would compensate the farmer. This business model doesn’t exist today.

We are nowhere near it now, but in the next few years, we’ll go that direction.

The ultimate model is to offer a yield guarantee that ensures the farmer always gets paid.

It’s a work in progress. Personally, I’m convinced that this will lead to a significant impact on the future of agriculture.

SF Bio

Name: Liam Condon

About: Condon has been a member of the board of management of Bayer AG since January 1, 2016, and president of Crop Science, headquartered in Monheim, Germany, since December 1, 2012. Condon, originally from Dublin, Ireland, studied international marketing and languages at Dublin City University and at the Technical University of Berlin. He speaks six languages. Condon is a member of the board of directors of CropLife International, an agricultural industry association.

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