A Sustainable Future for Agriculture

Syngenta has developed a far-reaching strategy to help farmers meet production challenges and adapt to shifting consumer expectations.
A Sustainable Future for Agriculture.
Following a half-year, worldwide listening tour with a range of stakeholders, including food companies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), consumers and policymakers, Syngenta is now focused on accelerating innovation with a renewed emphasis on sustainability. The goals? To help address the increasing challenges growers face around the world and to keep farming sustainable.

“Farmers today need to manage climate change, soil erosion and biodiversity loss, as well as changing consumer expectations and views on agricultural technology,” says Alexandra Brand, Syngenta chief sustainability officer. “There is a clear call for innovation and more action to address these challenges in ways where everybody wins — from growers to consumers and the environment.”

A New Strategy

Syngenta officially launched a new sustainability strategy in April. It aims specifically to improve the way farmers grow and protect crops and to find solutions that address today’s challenges, while anticipating tomorrow’s.

“We’re helping prepare growers to better meet the changing expectations coming from downstream, as well as providing products that will be better tailored to the demands of those customers.”

Jill Wheeler

“Syngenta has always believed that sustainability is continuous improvement in three areas: environmental, economic and social,” says Jill Wheeler, head of Sustainable Productivity for Syngenta, North America. “We want growers to continue to realize benefits in all of those areas. Some of the biggest benefits will probably come in the social area, since we will be seeking greater input and acceptance from nontraditional stakeholders.”

Right now, the company is developing key performance indicators around this new strategy, asking fundamental questions including:

  • Are Syngenta innovation investments enabling farmers to address evolving marketplace demands?

  • Are they improving the company’s internal operations and also helping its suppliers?

  • Are the innovation investments reducing the Syngenta carbon footprint?

  • Do they lead to greater transparency?

“Once we have all of those guidelines, the change will flow from there,” Wheeler says.

Of course, Syngenta customers need to be able to solve their problems and make a profit, too, so attention will also be given to factors like stabilizing yield in the face of shifts in climate, reducing residue levels, and increasing the quality and nutritional value of crops. All these innovations will ultimately help Syngenta resellers and growers succeed in a changing marketplace.

Enhancing Stakeholder Collaborations

The new strategy’s accelerating innovation platform creates more opportunities for Syngenta to work with farmers, researchers and NGOs to help define what new product development will look like, says Steven Wall, Ph.D., Syngenta product safety sustainability lead.

The Nature Conservancy is among those NGOs, and the organization has worked with Syngenta for years. Under the new sustainability strategy, this relationship will become an even more significant global collaboration.

.@Syngenta has developed strategies to help #farmers meet challenges and adapt to shifting consumer #sustainability expectations.

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“This will involve taking the core expertise of Syngenta — research and development (R&D) capability and innovation capability — and adapting that expertise to not only solve the problems that are facing growers around the world, but also to deliver benefits for nature and society at large,” says Michael Wironen, Ph.D., senior scientist in agriculture and food systems at The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Three core themes underlie the collaboration — soil health, resource-use efficiency and habitat protection — and all the collaboration’s work will address one, if not all, of those topics.

“Soil health is something TNC has been concerned about for a long time,” Wironen says. “We’re just now beginning, partly through our collaboration with Syngenta, to expand this focus beyond North America into Latin America, Africa and East Asia.”

He cites two examples: “In China, through our collaboration with Syngenta, we’re looking at how diversifying crop rotation in the country’s potato-growing region can deliver benefits in pest and disease management, productivity, and soil health. In Kenya, we’re looking at smallholders who produce crops in the watershed that supplies Nairobi to help them manage water better and to invest in soil-health improvements that boost their productivity.”

A little closer to home in the Midwestern U.S., this soil initiative means looking at opportunities to help farmers increase the efficiency of their operations in nutrient management, irrigation and land management. The effort also means helping farmers take advantage of Syngenta tools like its Land.db® farm management software.

Helping Growers Everywhere

The increased attention paid to sustainability will start right from the beginning of development work at Syngenta. “The sustainability focus is going to be embedded in our R&D processes, so by the time many of our products get to market, they will have an explicit sustainability benefit,” Wall says.

Striving for lower residues in crops is one example growers may notice. “That’s from feedback we received during our listening sessions,” he says. “Further reducing residues without impacting productivity could make it easier to access and trade in various markets.”

Over time, growers will see more and more products with environmental profiles that more food companies are excited about, Wheeler says. “We’re helping prepare growers to better meet the changing expectations coming from downstream, as well as providing products that will be better tailored to the demands of those customers.”

This collaboration — with farmers, academia and environmental groups — in researching and developing sustainable solutions and reporting transparently on the progress and outcomes of these investments is what growers will increasingly need, Brand says. “We will put our innovation more strongly in service of helping farms become resilient to changing climates and better able to adapt to consumer requirements, including reducing carbon emissions and reversing soil erosion and biodiversity decline.”