Q&A: Magan Lewis, equipment and automated field sensing lead at Bayer Crop Science
Her passion for plants, people, and science started early for Magan Lewis.
“I remember jumping into my dad’s 1970s Ford Bronco after supper and driving down country roads. My dad would point out a plant, and my brother and I raced each other to name the plant genus and species,” says Lewis, now equipment and automated field sensing lead at Bayer Crop Science.
Her parents, who were both educators and community trailblazers in their North Dakota hometown, fostered Lewis’ spirit of curiosity and love of research.
Magan performed her first science experiment in her father’s lab at age 4. In high school, she worked with a local farmer to test natural fungicides for potatoes and sugar beets. That project sparked her interest in agriculture.
“The farmer, who had been working long and hard hours, looked up at me with dirt on his face and said, ‘Magan, you’re going to make a difference in agriculture someday,’ and I took that and ran with it,” she recalls.
In her 11-year industry career, Lewis has developed and patented corn hybrids, led global research teams, mentored over 200 employees, worked with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), currently leads 4-H Clover Kids, and so much more.
SF: What do you do in your role at Bayer?
ML: I focus on the next evolution of agriculture research. My team strives to increase the global efficiency of data collection while improving data quality and safety of field testing. This is accomplished through the development, validation, and global deployment of high-impact digital tools and sensors. New technologies that we develop allow farmers to make their operation as sustainable and productive as possible, while protecting our natural resources.
We all have the same goal of designing the best seed for our growers’ particular field conditions. Everyone needs to eat, so the work we do impacts the world every day. And it all begins with the performance of every seed, but it requires the input of many partners.
SF: Who is your role model?
ML: Unquestionably, my Mom! I’ve watched her focus her time and attention on all people. She doesn’t care if she’s talking to a school superintendent or a janitor; she treats everybody with the same amount of respect, gets to know them, and makes every interaction count. In my role, I do the same. That’s how we make the world a better place.
Professionally, my current leader, Thomas Jury, head of North America Field Testing with Bayer Crop Science, is my role model. He creates an environment where I can always bring my best self to work every day. Tom is a strong leader who inspires me to go above and beyond for my employees and elevates my diverse perspectives.
SF: What is your advice for others in ag and leadership?
ML: Be adaptable as you embrace new adventures, and when you reach the top of your mountain, be sure to turn around and pull your team up with you. Avoid micromanagement, delegate, and empower your team to make decisions. The sooner we light the flame of our future leaders and problem solvers, the better our world will be.
SF: Talk about the impact of your IF/THEN initiative ambassadorship?
ML: In 2019, I was one of 120 women selected for the initiative. My life-size, 3D-printed orange statue was on display at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C. and my brother even went to see it with a North Dakota barley producer. Both were impressed at the idea of seeing North Dakota agriculture represented in such an impactful way in our nation’s capital. The ambassadorship opened many doors for my message. I was able to amplify my connectivity with future leaders and scientists through so many projects. If women are empowered to courageously unleash their creativity and innovation, then our communities and the world will change for the better. I would like to thank all who supported me and inspired others.
Name: Magan Lewis
Background: Lewis, her husband, and their two daughters have lived across the Midwestern United States and even in Hungary. They enjoy hiking, camping, and visiting science museums. Lewis aims to be a role model for her girls like her parents were for her by bringing the excitement of education and STEM into their childhood.
Title: Equipment & automated field sensing lead.
Education: Ph.D. in plant sciences from North Dakota State University, M.S. and B.S. in applied plant sciences from the University of Minnesota.