BASF: Changing the Face of Agriculture

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

For BASF, this is much more than a simple tagline. It's the approach to changing the face of agriculture.

To be sure, BASF offers all kinds of product chemistry on a global basis, including a broad portfolio of fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and seed treatments; a range of solutions for pest problems in urban and rural areas; and feed additives for livestock and pet nutrition. It's been chemistry that has brought BASF to its 150th anniversary this year.

However, chemistry can also apply to people, processes and ideas. Through the chemistry of innovation, sustainability, creativity, teamwork and a focus on the customer, BASF hopes to change how ag retailers and farmer/producers view and manage their businesses.

Research is Key

R&D efforts are essential for the development of new seed and chemical innovations to feed, clothe and provide fuel for a growing world population. In fact, BASF invests more than $2 million daily into agricultural research and development.

When considering what to research, the target is the most important thing. To define the research targets, whether a disease, weed, or other pest, BASF works to understand the problems in the field, as well as the growers' needs. By working closely with growers, BASF Innovation Specialists, and researchers, the company can better understand current and future needs.

"It is a holistic approach to research," said Dr. Ulf Groeger, Director Research and Development, North America BASF. "The biological profile is one aspect, but BASF also has to think about the regulatory and legal environments, the market and economic environments, commercial aspects and uniqueness of the product. And most importantly, we look in areas where we can possibly provide solutions where they currently don't exist.

"Evaluating the economic, ecological and social aspects during our research process ensures that we are providing sustainable solutions for growers in the years to come."

"BASF is continually seeking new ways to help farmers become more efficient and get the most out of every acre," says Paul Rea, Senior Vice President, North America, BASF. "We're driven to deliver innovation to help farmers deal with the challenges they face today and prepare them for those that still lie ahead.

Creating Chemistry

"In today's ag business environment, though, we need to look at ways to become partners with our customers," he continues. "Through surveys and personal connections, we've discovered that growers want just that."

Brandon Doggett, Product Manager, BASF, was one of the original Innovation Specialists who joined BASF at the inception of the program a few years ago. His motivation to join the newly formed team was that he saw it as an opportunity to call on farmers and help them figure out the best plan for their farm

"I was really excited by the opportunity to get innovations directly from the lab to the farm," tells Doggett. "Growers were looking for new ideas and concepts, and it was rewarding to match my ideas with their drive and help them achieve their goals."

Innovation Specialists offer advice on total farm management, more than just crop protection product choices. For example, Doggett indicated that, for some of his customers, the use of aerially applied fungicides was not possible because the farms were located near U.S. military bases. "So we tried using pivots to apply the fungicides, and it worked," he recalls. "Now a number of farmers are using this practice in their areas to improve plant health and yield."

Brandon feels that a strong Innovation Specialist has a handle on agronomics, financial markets, grain marketing, and a way to "think outside the box."

"Farmers need someone who is familiar with innovation, can think differently, and partner with them on the farm," concludes Doggett. "That's the BASF Innovation Specialist."

"Our Innovation Specialists talk about solutions for a particular farm, because they show up on that farm," adds Kay. "They can be there as a sounding board. And we can show that BASF wants to be a successful part of the customer's business approach."

Focus on Ag's Future

As with any company, hiring and retaining quality employees is essential for its future. More than that, BASF believes that engaged, well-trained employees will help move agriculture forward at a faster pace.

BASF makes certain the company is considered by the best potential hires in two ways: scholarships and their comprehensive Professional Development Program (PDP).

In 2015, BASF commemorated the 9th year of scholarship support for young people planning to pursue careers in agriculture. During this time, BASF has provided approximately $150,000 to support educational ventures for about 60 young people wishing to pursue careers in agriculture.

"Investing in the future is how the agricultural industry can sustain success," tells Bentley. "As BASF celebrates its 150th anniversary, we are pleased to provide scholarships to bright, agriculture-passionate individuals to invest in that future and assure the sustainability of the industry in the years to come."

BASF's Professional Development Program (PDP) also has a great impact for prospective hires. Those who have gone through the program feel that it offers much more.

"It was a tremendous opportunity for me," says Jennifer Holland, Product Manager, BASF. "I had a rotation in the office and one in the field. The program kept me engaged."

The PDP program at BASF is unique in its approach to mentoring young people into ag careers, and since the program started in 2009, over 50 young people have entered or passed through the program.

Stewardship and Sustainability

BASF has a commitment to stewardship. The company understands that good stewardship will ensure that innovations and technologies will be around to help farmers for years to come. And, BASF continues to help farmers understand optimal application practices so they can preserve the land and get the most out of their acres.

For aerial applicators, BASF is a major sponsor of Operation S.A.F.E. for the National Association of Agricultural Aviators. S.A.F.E., important in any pilot's vocabulary, is an acronym for Self-regulating Application and Flight Efficiency.

BASF has also sponsored the On Target Application Academy. Developed for growers who self-apply herbicides, the Academy is a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity to provide hands-on training of today's herbicide application best practices.

"Conscientious care toward the environment and society are two of the reasons for our long-term success," says Paul Rea. "Sustainability is a core value that has supported our growth since 1865 into the world's largest chemical company, and will take us into the next 150 years."

To find out more about the how BASF is observing its 150th anniversary and looking at innovative ways to produce crops and food, go to www.basf.com/creator-space/food

To find out more about BASF in North America, go to www.agro.basf.us

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