Agronomists on Call: Interview with Chris Cook, head, technical training & resources, Syngenta

Technical insight and a can-do attitude make Syngenta agronomists an essential resource.

Why did Syngenta establish its own agronomy team?
Chris Cook, head, technical training & resources, Syngenta
Chris Cook, head, technical training & resources, Syngenta
Chris Cook, head, technical training & resources, Syngenta: The agronomy team Syngenta has today was established three years ago, after we brought together various agronomy service teams from across the company. Helping farmers "Grow More" is really one of the pillars for why we integrated our seeds and crop protection businesses in 2011. It's also what agronomy is all about. With an eye toward helping growers resolve challenges and make the most of opportunities, we not only increased the number of agronomists at the time the company came together, but we've also been increasing our numbers ever since. We currently have more than 80 trained agronomists in locations across the U.S.

How does your team differ from sales?

Cook: In a lot of ways, agronomists are not that different from sales representatives. I think a simple way to differentiate between the two is that our sales team has a business focus and our agronomist team has a technical focus. That said, often the best people in sales are also great at agronomy, and the best agronomists understand the reseller's business. At Syngenta, we tell our agronomy team to focus on three things:

  • Demand creation - with and through our reseller partners. A good example of this is joint sales calls with our partners.
  • Training. Training, of course, can come in many forms, but in-field training is often the most effective. There's nothing quite like bringing a handful of growers and resellers out to the field, where we dig up a plant and learn about how it works and how Syngenta can help maximize its potential.
  • Message amplification. Whether Syngenta agronomists are writing for our Know More Grow More blog, pulling performance data that our resellers need for area growers or taking a broad agronomic principle and making it locally relevant, telling the company's story is a key component of what we do.

Can you describe the relationship between your team and the Syngenta sales force?

Cook: If you think of a football analogy, every person on the field is responsible for putting the ball in the end zone. That said, you need quarterbacks to run the plays. Our sales representatives are, without a doubt, the quarterbacks, and they help coordinate the actions of everyone on the field in support of getting that ball in the end zone. Agronomists, customer service, supply chain - we're all there to support sales and, as a team, help our resellers and growers win the game.

What benefits does your team offer to growers, resellers and other field experts?

Cook: The biggest benefit agronomists can offer is making sure Syngenta products are best positioned to maximize their performance, so that each grower can receive top dollar for every acre he or she plants. Other benefits come from helping to train people not only on our products, but also on competitive brands as well. We look at the total acre when prescribing solutions that fit each farm, and sometimes that prescription includes technologies beyond our portfolio. Certainly, general agronomics and even just some good old "been-there-done-that" experience also come in quite handy.

How can growers and others in the field tap into your team's expertise?

Cook: There are many ways to tap into our expertise. The easiest, of course, is to just pick up the phone and call your local Syngenta agronomist. Whether it's helping to answer questions about a particular field challenge or offering advice on one of our products, our agronomists are always great assets in the field.

Another option is to join us during one of our regional training sessions. In 2013, the Syngenta agronomy team piloted a project called the Grow More Experience trials. These were sites where we brought in resellers, consultants, farm managers and growers to highlight some of our newest technologies. We trained participants on proper product placement and talked about agronomic practices that help boost their crop's productivity. Talk to your local Syngenta sales representative or agronomist to see what type of training we have available for you.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight our Know More Grow More blog. Syngenta agronomists from across the country started writing advice on the website in 2013, and it's gone over really well. Whether it's a few quick words highlighting what's going on in the field or what to watch for down the road, we cover a lot of ground on many topics that could be impacting farms in your area. And if you are a strong proponent of "seeing is believing," our blog entries often feature a picture or video that literally shows you what we are referencing and how to find it. Know More Grow More is just one more way we can serve the people who help put food on our tables, clothes in our closets and fuel in our tanks.