JERSEYVILLE, Ill. — Liam Condon, the president of Bayer Crop Science Division, speaks six languages. In addition to English and the Gaelic of his native Ireland, Condon speaks German, French, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.
But when it comes to being able to move innovation, from digital ag to crop protection to seed technology forward, Condon said Bayer and the farmers it serves need to speak another language — that of the consumer.
“The innovation, in and of itself, also needs society acceptance and if societal acceptance is not there, that innovation is not going ot reach its potential,” Condon said.
That’s where speaking a language that consumers can understand and will accept comes into focus.
“To get that societal acceptance, I think one of the key things for us is, both as Bayer and as an industry, we’ve got to do a lot more to explain to the consumer relevant benefits of what we do,” Condon said.
He spoke to a roomful of media during a media outreach day at the company’s Jerseyville research station.
Condon talked about the digital platform the company is advancing. He also talked about the need to get the consuming public’s buy-in to ag technologies and plans that the company has to boost its approach to sustainability.
Condon acknowledged that the company has spent a lot of time talking to growers and extolling the benefits of various products and practices, but little time talking to consumers.
“Whether it’s coastal or here in the Midwest, there are different segments of society that are skeptical about what agriculture and about what innovation in agriculture is all about. I think here again we have to explain first and emphasize what are the benefits for the average person of this technology that we bring to growers,” Condon said.
He emphasized transparency as another vital part of gaining consumer acceptance.
“It’s our goal to be as transparent as possible,” Condon said.
That includes opening up data to the public.
“We’ve taken several initiatives, first steps in the industry, also providing all of our non-confidential safety-relevant data to the public in a format that is easily understandable,” Condon said.
Combining those goals is a real effort to open a dialogue with the public.
“There’s a multitude of additional efforts to enhance transparency so that an average person does not need to be concerned that somehow there’s something secret going on in the company. We’ll be as open as possible about what we’re working on,” Condon said.
One of those things is building and enhancing a digital ag platform that will bring in partners from all over agriculture with the end goal of creating prescriptions for farms that are specific and detailed as possible.
“The reason we are so excited about this is that at the end of the day, when we talk about tailored solutions, customized solutions, it allows us to give the most precise recommendations possible to a grower,” Condon said.
Condon said the focus on the platform, which he called “a fundamental enabler of our business model going forward,” was to bring different companies onto the platform to provide specific information for growers.
“We work with a ton of partners, we are closer to 80 partners. Each partner brings a new data layer to the system. It could be an irrigation company, it could be a satellite imagery company, there are many different companies who want to offer value to a grower but they don’t necessarily have their own digital platform. They can use ours to access the grower. By doing that, they create value for the grower but in our system, we have basically all of the players contributing to value for the grower,” Condon said.
Along with that, Condon said the company has another goal of improving sustainability.
“We also said we want to set new standards of sustainability. We are only at the start of the journey here,” Condon said. He said more details will be released later this year but did give a hint at what the company’s sustainability platform could be aiming for.
“Just to give you a sense of the direction we are going - we think there is a possibility to get to a carbon zero future for ag,” Condon said.