New industry giant likes direct link to consumers through horticulture

Horticulture and its close connection to consumers is highly valued by new industry giant Corteva Agriscience. The multi-billion-dollar company, which formed last year from the merger of Dow and DuPont, (and Pioneer, which was already a DuPont business) is off and running with its stock now trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange…and it says its future includes a strong commitment to Canadian horticulture.


In early June, Corteva invited leading producer clients -- along with agricultural and business journalists from around the world (including three of us from Canada) -- to witness company officials ceremoniously ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to start the day’s trading.


It was the first day the company’s stock was publicly traded under its ticker symbol CTVA, culminating more than a year of flat-out, full-speed-ahead planning and preparation by virtually everyone in the 21,000-employee organization.


Before and after the opening bell, we had a chance to hear the company’s story, ask questions about its approach, and gather information to tell readers, listeners and viewers why it was truly a pivotal day in global agriculture, agri-business and consumer understanding.


To begin with, the New York Stock Exchange is the most powerful trading entity in the world. You don’t get to trade shares there unless you have the chops to do so. 


With a presence in 140-plus countries and net sales of $14 billion last year, Corteva enters the ring as a heavyweight, strong enough to be among the world’s biggest 500 companies.


And with that kind of capital, Corteva can make things happen, on and off the farm. 


It lays claim to what it calls “a robust pipeline of active chemistry and technologies,” which in real terms means it’s introducing 21 new products globally in the next five years.


So how about Canada, and specifically, horticulture?


That’s a question welcomed by Bryce Eger, president of Corteva’s Canada operation.


“Horticulture is a very important part of the company’s portfolio…and of Canadian agriculture, when you think of the Ontario side of it, as well as BC,” he says. “And it’s a close, direct link to the consumer.”


Eger says Corteva structured the business to be sure there’s coverage for the growers as well as the retailers that support the horticulture business. Canada is one of the company’s six “regions,” its own separate operating unit, intended to meet the needs of the Canadian marketplace.


He is clear that Canada “is not going to be a cookie cutter to what we have in the U.S.” That said, the U.S. provides a convenient and familiar mothership for Corteva products. 


On the product side, Eger says Canada is working closely with its U.S. counterpart because of regulatory similarities. Then there’s the practical side of product development. “We find that because of the size and scale of the U.S. business we’re able to find some opportunity for new products, so our portfolio is going to continue to be strong in the hort business,” he says.


Then there’s the consumer side of Corteva. Eger describes the company’s focus on biologicals and natural products over the course of the next few years as being consistent with its approach to consumers with safe, healthy, nutritious food. That sentiment is echoed by Jim Collins, the company’s CEO, who says Corteva understands that consumers are the ultimate customers of both it and of Canadian farmers, who have reached out to Corteva to ask for help telling the big story about agriculture in this country. 


The story is one about sustainability, safety and affordability. But it is not well understood, and Collins says Corteva will take measures to make that story better known.


“We are committed to being transparent, to sharing information and knowledge and dispelling inaccuracies,” he told reporters in New York. In fact, he noted, Corteva’s mission statement clearly lays out this imperative, with its promise to “enrich the lives of those who produce and  those who consume.”


How this mission manifests itself remains to be seen. But the gap in understanding for Corteva (and other companies) to help fill is immense and getting bigger all the time. Corteva has the ways and means to not only help growers be productive and profitable, but to also help advance agriculture, its perception and its understanding among consumers. What an incredible opportunity.

Publish date: 
Monday, June 24, 2019

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