Annual dialogue in Germany mulls future of agriculture

Wednesday, Oct 02, 2019 18:40

The two-day 2019 Future of Farming Dialogue conference in Germany attracted around 400 participants. — VNS Photo Thu Ngan

Breakthrough innovations are needed so that farmers can grow enough food for a growing world population while preserving natural resources, the 2019 Future of Farming Dialogue, which wrapped up on Wednesday in Germany, heard.

With the theme “Tomorrow belongs to all of us”, the annual event brought together speakers, farmers, scientists, and participants from around 40 countries for two days of panel discussions, talks and interviews on issues and opportunities facing the industry.

Liam Condon, member of the Bayer board of management and president of the Crop Science Division, said in his keynote presentation: “By combining agricultural innovation with a business model that has sustainability at its core, we can … contribute to a truly better life.”

He pointed out that investment in tomorrow’s breakthroughs would require collaboration and engagement with scientists, innovators, regulators, farmers, and consumers to build trust and gain societal acceptance.

During the two days the topics that were discussed covered many major issues faced by global agriculture such as the need to find a balance between production of food and preservation of our planet, consumer demand to have a healthy diet with no negative impacts on the environment and the importance of crop protection tools for sustainable agriculture.

Organised by Bayer, the event considered how we could sustainably produce enough healthy food for our growing population and pursue the future of agriculture through digital tools and innovation.

“As an agricultural leader, we have the opportunity and responsibility to address the global challenges of climate change, bio-diversity loss and food security to help create a better tomorrow for our planet,” Condon said.

Ambitious commitments

Bayer unveiled its three ambitious commitments to address some of the most pressing challenges the world is likely to face by 2030.

First, it seeks to reduce the environmental impact of crop protection by 30 per cent by developing new technologies that help farmers scale down the use of crop protection products and enable a more precise application.

Second, it seeks to reduce field greenhouse gases emissions in regions it serves by 30 per cent.

Third, it will empower 100 million smallholder farmers in developing countries around the world by providing greater access to sustainable agricultural solutions.

Condon explained that the long-term success of the company’s crop science lies not in selling more products, but in providing farmers with personalised solutions, enabling them to achieve better harvests more sustainably by using less resources such as water, land, inputs and energy.

Last year Bayer invested 2.3 billion euros in crop science research and development (R&D), more than any other competitor in the industry, and the figure is expected to rise to a cumulative 25 billion euros over the next 10 years.

Some 7,300 scientists are working at over 35 R&D sites and more than 175 breeding stations.

The division’s combined breeding, bio-tech, crop protection and environmental science pipelines have the potential to deliver up to 30 billion euros in peak sales, with 17 billion euros expected to come from recent and near-term launches alone.

“Many of today’s innovations are the result of both continuous improvement and disruptive innovation, as we use the power of human ingenuity to drive scientific advances in health and nutrition to improve our world”, Bob Reiter, head of research and development at the crop science division, said.

Bayer told the conference it would continue to invest in data science and new technologies since data science and innovative digital tools also enable it to sustainably improve the efficiency of its business operations while at the same time empowering farmers to make better decisions about how to grow crops.

Last year it signed more than 60 new collaborations or extensions to existing collaborations.

Recently it finalised an agreement with bio-pharma research company Arvinas to set up a joint venture called Oerth Bio and explore how molecular-degrading proteins found in plants and animals can protect crops against pests and diseases.

The outcomes of this partnership not only have significant implications for agriculture but could potentially provide significant benefits to human health. — VNS

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