Chinese ownership no hindrance to Syngenta innovation

Chinese ownership no hindrance to Syngenta innovation


Farm Online News
RESEARCH FOCUS: Syngenta's vegetable seeds business unit head - Australasia, Ged Sippel, and head of vegetable seeds, ASEAN and North East Asia, Nicholas Bennett, say industry collaboration is critical for new products to reach the market and achieve their potential.

RESEARCH FOCUS: Syngenta's vegetable seeds business unit head - Australasia, Ged Sippel, and head of vegetable seeds, ASEAN and North East Asia, Nicholas Bennett, say industry collaboration is critical for new products to reach the market and achieve their potential.

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Syngenta is under Chinese ownership these days but that's a good thing, according to seed developers and the on-the-ground teams.

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BEING Chinese-owned is doing anything but hinder the product development goals of Syngenta.

China National Chemical, known as ChemChina, bought the Swiss chemical and seed product maker Syngenta for more than $US43 billion ($60 billion) in cash last year in what was the biggest acquisition by a Chinese company at the time.

For Syngenta's on-the-ground research team, the deal means business as usual but with extra reassurance.

Syngenta's vegetable seeds business unit head - Australasia, Ged Sippel, and head of vegetable seeds, ASEAN and North East Asia, Nicholas Bennett, spoke to Good Fruit & Vegetables at Hort Connections 2017 in Adelaide last month.

Mr Sippel said the ChemChina deal was about bolstering the work already taking place within Syngenta.

"For us, it's an injection of confidence in our business that we have an owner, essentially, that supports our strategy," Mr Sippel said.

"They purchased Syngenta specifically for that strategy and the R&D pipeline that supports that, so that confidence allows you to have the conversations with your customers, share the vision that you know will be supported if you put the right products into the market.

"If you look at veg seeds specifically, there is an absolute appetite there to invest and grow that part of Syngenta's business and recognise that Syngenta can globally do better with our vegetable genetic offer and are prepared to invest in it for the long term."

That product development process increasingly involves the entire supply chain.

If you can't hear it firsthand from the growers where it is going to have the biggest impact well then you're kidding yourself. - Ged Sippel, Syngenta

"Syngenta, at its heart is an R&D business. Out of that comes many technologies, whether it's in the vegetable seed genetic space or the crop protection space; it means very little if you never collaborate with the industry because they'll never make it to market," Mr Sippel said.

"It's absolutely vital for us to be collaborating well- not just to get best value from those products but to drive value in the industry as well."

It was a concept echoed by Syngenta’s territory head, Paul Luxton, the night before at a networking function who said cultivating a united front in horticulture would be important to excel the industry. 

Syngenta field and office staff are encouraged to get into paddocks and "kick some dirt" as much as possible.

"If you can't hear it firsthand from the growers where it is going to have the biggest impact well then you're kidding yourself," Mr Sippel said.

He thanked the growers in particular for putting their faith in Syngenta products in what he described as "sometimes a tough market".

Mr Bennett said product development, like vegetable seed breeding, had taken on renewed focus of consumer interests.

He said innovations in the fields of food trends, quality, freshness and consumption preferences were increasingly driving the development pipeline.

"The market overall is really thriving on innovation. We have to," he said. 

Mr Sippel said one area is standing out more than most.

"What we are seeing in Australia, and it's the same in Europe and the US, and more developed markets, is this whole snacking segment growing in that space," he said.

He said there was a definite move from a genetic development perspective to designing products that suit that market.

Mr Sippel said Syngenta's involvement with Hort Connections was valuable as it provided the chance to connect with the industry while also having a visual presence for the company.​ 

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