Land O'Lakes, Inc. and Villa Crop Protection of South Africa today announced a partnership, effective Oct. 26, that will capitalize on the growth potential of the South African agricultural market. The two organizations are joining two complementary portfolios of productivity-enhancing crop input products and services to help all sizes of farms sustainably improve their yields. This is Land O'Lakes' first commercial investment in Africa and reflects the cooperative's accelerated growth in its international business. 

With the deal, Land O'Lakes, through its South African subsidiary, assumes a 52.5 percent ownership stake in Villa Crop Protection. The existing Villa Crop Protection management team will continue to lead the business. People and product expertise from Land O'Lakes' crop inputs business Winfield Solutions, LLC will support and assist existing operations.

"South Africa has a dynamic and growing agriculture industry, and we are proud to be entering this country with a local market leader in crop protection," said Chris Policinski, president and CEO of Land O'Lakes, Inc. "We've been in countries across the world, including parts of Africa, for 35 years through our international development efforts. This is our first major international commercial investment in Africa. We look forward to bringing proven products from our WinField business to the South African market and investing in the research and development efforts that will provide new products to local growers that help produce more food, more sustainably."

Land O'Lakes will bring proprietary products, services and insights delivered in the U.S. under the WinField brand to complement the portfolio Villa Crop Protection offers the South African market. The organization also will develop new, comprehensive solutions designed specifically for the needs of local growers.

Villa's crop protection solutions are supported with a wide range of training programs presented by the Villa Academy Training Institute. The institute equips agriculturalists, producers and sales people with the latest knowledge, scientific facts and experience in the field of crop protection to help optimize their crop production using fewer resources. Villa Crop Protection plans to expand the institute's reach with assistance from Land O'Lakes and provide an even-wider range of training courses for the agricultural industry both locally and in the rest of Africa to build skills that help support the economic development of farmers and the agricultural industry as a whole.

In 2014, agriculture added 109.3 billion South African Rand ($8.7B USD) to the country's GDP according to the World Bank. Nearly 80 percent of the land in South Africa was used for agricultural production, which amounts to more than 97.6 million hectares.

"The data is clear: Agriculture and production are critically important to South Africa," said Andre Schreuder, managing director of Villa Crop Protection. "With Land O'Lakes' investment in Villa Crop Protection and WinField's capabilities, products and people, we are even more confident entering this exciting period in our business. We are positive that this deal will enhance our capabilities, build on distinctive and complementary product offerings and bring new technologies, international insights and Land O'Lakes' years of value-added agricultural knowledge to help meet local growers' needs today and into the future."

There will be no adverse employee impacts for either organization.