Corteva Agriscience looks for bigger role in produce

( Corteva Agriscience )

Spun off from DowDupont on June 1, Corteva Agriscience now aims to play a bigger role in the fresh produce industry by putting a greater focus on the consumer and looking for opportunities in the vegetable seed business.

The merger of Dow and DuPont won regulatory approval in 2017, with the stipulation that the combined $130 billion company divest some of its crop protection business. Corteva Agriscience has a portfolio that includes both seeds and crop protection, split about 56% for seeds and traits and 44% for crop protection, according to the company.

Rajan Gajaria, executive vice president of business platforms for Corteva Agriscience, Wilmington, Del., said Corteva— with legacy parents in Dow and DuPont boasting a combined 350 years in business — is a $15 billion company with a very new mindset.

“It’s not every day that you get to start a $15 billion business from scratch and say, What do we want this company to be?” he said.

The company’s purpose statement speaks to enriching the lives of both producers and consumers. That focus on the consumer is one of the areas where Corteva will be different than its “legacy” parents, he said.

Where conventional wisdom might think of the agriculture economy as “farm to fork,” Gajaria said Corteva is thinking of it as a circular economy that starts with the fork.

What the consumer thinks about their health and food has implications for the farm, and he said Corteva plays a role in completing that loop from between consumers and producers.

He said Corteva can be a part of creating an “ecosystem” around food that builds trust.

“The trust that the consumers need in the food they’re eating needs to be moved up several notches, and we have a role to play in it,” he said. “We want to get to a point where we can start establishing trust with consumers with the products that we bring to the marketplace, in collaboration with others.”

Vegetable business

Corteva is planning to become more of a presence in the vegetable seed business, he said. 

“That’s a gap in our portfolio, and we are looking to see what we can do in terms of acquisitions as we move forward,” he said.

In addition to acquiring a vegetable seed business, he said Corteva is open to the use of the CRISPR gene editing tool to develop improvements such as longer shelf life or pest or disease resistance, he said.

“We have that gene-editing capability, which could help us with the fruit and vegetable business as we move forward,” he said. Post-harvest technology also is an area where Corteva may look to invest in or collaborate with other partners, Gajaria said.

Gajaria said the company has a lot of crop protection products in the pipeline for fruit and vegetables.

 The company’s current products will put it in position to be the number one crop protection chemistry supplier in California, he said, and new products will build on that. 

Looking ahead, Gajaria expects Corteva to be on the leading edge of chemistry innovation, stating that Corteva will be launching about 25% of new active ingredients introduced industry-wide in the next five years.

On the digital side of the business, the company is soon launching a software program that helps growers make agronomic decisions based on expected yield outcomes.

Gajaria said that sustainability is a focus for Corteva.

“At the end of the day, the farmer is owning his or her own farm, and they value the quality of the land more than anything because that’s what is their asset,” he said. 

“We are building a go-forward sustainability program grounded in conversations we have had with food industry stakeholders and will continue to enable our farmers to grow quality food crops,” Gajaria said.

“Our plan, which will be available in Q1 2020, will include quantitative metrics that our downstream partners can utilize to show how their ingredient production supports their sustainability goals.”

One product that plays into the sustainability theme is Optinyte, a nitrogen stabilizer that prevents leaching of nitrogen from the soil before it is used.

Mainly used for field corn, Gajaria said could be a valuable product for fruit and vegetable crops in California.

“We are looking at formulations technology that can be tailored to those crops as we continue to grow our sustainability footprint,” he said.

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