BLOG: NAWG Sits Down with Bayer’s COO of Crop Science Brett Begemann

NAWG Director of Communications Caitlin Eannello recently sat down with Brett Begemann, member of the Executive Leadership Team and Chief Operating Officer for the Crop Science division of Bayer. Based in St. Louis, Mo., Brett oversees commercial excellence across all areas of the Crop Science business. In this interview, NAWG asked Begemann what Bayer has coming down the pipeline for wheat, his global perspectives on trade and wheat, and his opinion on what he sees to be the greatest challenge facing agriculture over these upcoming years.

Brett, would you mind going more into your role at Bayer?
Yes, I have what I think is one of the more exciting positions in any company because I get to manage the operations and spend time with our customers. I manage all the commercial operations around the world, in various geographies of the world. We got to break the world into Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, North America. I spend time with customers in our organization and in all those areas.

It would be great if you could give us a preview of what Bayer has coming down the pipeline for wheat.
It’s a really exciting time as the two companies have brought together their portfolio, and we are really starting to focus now on the future with driving innovation and agriculture which we intended to do with the combination. And in fact, very recently we just announced a new herbicide that we are introducing for wheat growers, Luxxur, that’ll be coming out, but also deep in the pipeline there are other fungicides that will be coming, there’s other insecticide that are coming, as well as a brand-new herbicide molecule that was just discovered. We announced all those a couple weeks ago in the pipeline disclosure that we made for the whole pipeline of the whole crop science business. So, a lot of really exciting things coming in the future and many of those will apply to our wheat customers as well.

You talked a little bit about your global responsibilities, do you mind elaborating more on this and your perspective on trade especially as relates to wheat or to agriculture in general?
Yes. When you think about the people in the world and where they reside and the likelihood that every geographic area with their population could sustain themselves from a food standpoint it’s difficult to get to that conclusion. And we happen to have in the world a very large agricultural land based in the Americas from Canada to Argentina and everything in between and therefore trade is incredibly important to everywhere in the world. You also think about it from a fruit and vegetable standpoint and the desire for consumers to have more access to fruits and vegetables.

And 12 months of the year versus when you can grow them in your own area, therefore trade again becomes a big part of making that happen when you’re sitting in Europe and needing to rely on southern Europe or Northern Africa or whether you’re sitting in the United States relying on South America. Global trade players everywhere. Specific to wheat, wheat moves around the world as much is any crop that I’m aware of. There’s a very large production base here in North America as well as Europe. And it’s important that we have global trading systems that allow the commodities to move around the world to get to the people and it also allows the world to optimize the overall production some parts of the world are more conducive to growing one crop versus another. And where we can be highly productive in one area of the world that creates the more sustainable agricultural system for the planet. And I think it’s important that we think about these as to how do we take care of the whole planet and take care of all people rather than think about how we take care of our little slice, so that we can optimize the whole system around the world.

Lastly, I am interested in what you believe to be the greatest challenge facing agriculture in the maybe next 5-10 years or even sooner.
I think it’s a challenge as well as an opportunity. I think society has expressed a great interest over the last five years and I believe going forward, they will continue to do that, to be more involved in agriculture and understand agriculture. And I think as a challenge to us in the industry is how do we figure out how to engage society in a constructive way, both to hear their thoughts and their inputs into what we do as well as share the things that we do in agriculture and the consequences of decisions that either of us make.

I really think there’s tremendous opportunity to improve that communication, societal discussion if you want to call it that, because at the end of the day the planet is relying on us to create a more sustainable agricultural system. And I think it’s important that we do that together, so that we get all the perspectives at the table so we’re all making informed decisions when we do that, and that’s part of the reason that we as a company at Bayer Crop Science we talk about shaping the future of agriculture and how do we shape the future of agriculture, bringing to BAYER the innovative nature of our company in the investments we make on the innovation side with the societal needs and the planetary needs around us. And I think that’s a great challenge, but also opportunity.

Listen to an audio recording of the interview here. For more about Bayer’s R&D plan for 2020, read Bayer Driving Agricultural Innovation and Sustainability with Industry-Leading Pipeline and Investment.