In mid-August 2018, Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto was complete after lengthy negotiations, much regulatory scrutiny and extensive mandatory spin-offs. The Progressive Farmer editors were offered a chance to sit down with some of the new leadership one day after the big switch.
Liam Condon, president of Bayer’s Crop Science Division, admits the purchase took at least a year longer than anticipated.
“At the end of the day, what we want to do is bring together the most advanced technology platform in ag together--Monsanto’s leadership in seeds and traits, and digital pioneer in the ag space--with the Bayer crop-protection platform based on chemistry and biology,” Condon says.
The “hold separate” required by the Department of Justice (DOJ) meant intimate business details revealing how each company operated couldn’t be shared prior to the formal close. “So, it will take a little bit of time, because it is two companies with two portfolios coming together,” Condon says. “Ultimately, the customer will have one touch point with the company instead of two.”
Brett Begemann, a 35-year Monsanto veteran and the new chief operating officer at Bayer Crop Science, acknowledges farmers are already thinking about 2019 seed purchases, and they shouldn’t expect to see seed catalogs change much.
“There were substantial changes that occurred through the regulatory process,” Begemann says. “We’re moving forward with our seed business based on how Monsanto operated a seed business … because they [Bayer] had to sell their seed business.” The crop-protection side of the business for the coming year will be mostly based on Bayer’s offerings.
“Teams will be working throughout the year to get feedback and input from customers, and, in 2020, farmers should start to see the results of that,” he predicts. DOJ was thorough in preventing overlaps in the portfolios. BASF now owns most of the assets Bayer was required to divest.
Begemann projects that data and data analytics “will change agriculture more in the future than biotechnology changed agriculture.” However, he also notes that the rich pipelines of both companies should generate new tools.
Specifically, he points to the long-held knowledge that fungicide behavior can be variety and hybrid specific. “It’s been hard to look at that because we [Monsanto] didn’t have fungicides,” Begemann says. Opening Bayer’s chemistry library to seed company scientists could speed the development of new herbicide trait systems, he adds.
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