Q&A with UPL's Chief Technology Officer Adrian Percy

With more than two decades of experience in the crop protection and technology industries, Adrian Percy joined UPL as Chief Technology Officer in October 2019. He shares the company’s vision for how to advance crop protection and sustainability efforts and details on the newly opened Open Ag Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. 

Question: What does the concept OpenAg mean? 
“OpenAg is UPL’s purpose that leads us to focus on facilitating progress for the entire agricultural value chain, including growers, distributors, suppliers and innovation partners. We are building a network that redefines the way an entire industry thinks and works— open to fresh ideas, innovative ways, and new answers. Through OpenAg, we can create win-win partnerships including growers and consumers. It’s rooted in an open mindedness for collaboration opportunities.”

Question: How is UPL positioned to carry out this purpose? 
“We are the fifth biggest agriculture solutions company—we were formed more than 50 years ago, and then with the Arysta LifeScience merger, we became a top tier organization. After the acquisition, we integrated portfolios and teams to work  around a common purpose. UPL is a very fast-moving, agile company that prides itself on doing things differently and not following the industry norms.”

Question: What’s an innovation you are most energized by? 
“We are very active in the biological space and we believe that we can deliver products which have the consistency and effectiveness that growers expect. And at the same time, COVID-19 will accelerate the embrace of digital tools which offer terrific opportunities to use all types of crop inputs more effectively and efficiently”

Question: So is UPL not focusing on chemistry?
“We will never abandon chemistry. We have to develop new products that utilize all available technologies. Farmers will need chemistry in the future, and biologicals will come into their own place as well. What will be really exciting is the differentiated combination of biologicals and chemistry—so you get the joint control of two approaches and reduce the chemical burden on the environment.” 

Question: What makes the Open Ag Center different than other labs? 
“We are the only company that has a dedicated, state-of-the-art facility focused solely on supporting external innovators. This is a laboratory to help confirm and validate technologies coming from startups and university departments. We want to bridge a gap and progress technologies while leveraging our expertise and global footprint. Since we don’t have our own competing internal research engines, we are wholly reliant on these ideas coming from the outside.” 

Question: When will we see the first projects launched from the Open Ag Center? 
“We initiated more than 60 new  projects since the center opened —and we have the capacity to double that. We are getting technologies at various stages of development, and it’s hard to predict, but I am optimistic that  within a year we have some of the first technologies passed through the lab and out in the field for more testing. Within two years I highly anticipate we will be testing new products in the field.”