Martin Gruss (right) and Boualem Saidi (left)
With more than 100 years as a leader in the seed treatment market, Bayer SeedGrowth stands for expertise, engagement, and consistency. Read how Martin Gruss, former Global Head Bayer SeedGrowth, will now hand over the business to his successor Boualem Saidi – and why the ambition of Bayer is clearly to strengthen its leading role in seed-applied technologies.
Martin, what has excited you most during your career at Bayer and at Bayer SeedGrowth® in particular?
Martin: Completing 40 years in this company, I have certainly gained a lot of experience. This included the management of the Crop Protection business for Bayer in Australia and New Zealand 20 years ago, so the ISF in Brisbane in 2018 brought quite some memories back. After 1998, I managed our Crop Protection business in the country group for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and later the global Bayer SeedGrowth business.
The biggest thing I learned over the years was that you have to understand your customer and his business, so that you understand how you can bring value to his business. But what excited me most was that we achieved growth through innovation, passion, and commitment. And this growth has not stopped yet. We are still going strong. And we will surely continue our leading role in seed-applied technologies. But you know, Bayer SeedGrowth is a people business. And I had really great people on the global Bayer SeedGrowth team. They made Bayer SeedGrowth what it is today: a unique competence brand.
What have been the business highlights and your greatest achievements?
Martin: At Bayer SeedGrowth we have always been pioneers: pioneers in ground-breaking achievements in seed applied technologies that have changed the world of farming. In the past, our collaboration with seed companies, for example, successfully created new market segments. Take the launch of Gaucho® as a sugar beet seed treatment: It truly changed the kind of yield and value sugar beets could deliver. Above all, it increased efficiency, because some foliar sprays were no longer necessary – an absolute novelty at that time. By the way: With more than 100 years of expertise in the market, we also stand for engagement and consistency. And, as Bayer, we can now speak with even more competence about sustainable agriculture with the integration and also the know-how and expertise of our new colleagues at legacy Monsanto creating the leading innovation engine in agriculture. I am happy that I was with Bayer right at this time, where this was happening, and was able to take part and contribute to this development.
What have been the challenges during your time at Bayer SeedGrowth?
Martin: I recognize the Bayer SeedGrowth team has been working incredibly hard. We’ve had a lot of challenges that have come to us from various angles and I really do understand that if it wasn’t for the commitment and for the perseverance of people through some of those challenges, then there is no way that Bayer could be as successful as it is today.
I guess one of the most challenging industry developments during the last few years in seed applied technologies was the verdict that the use of certain neonicotinoids will stay restricted in the European Union. We remain convinced of the safety of these products when applied in accordance with the label instructions. Since the European Commission imposed the ban on three neonicotinoid insecticides at the end of 2013, it’s been possible to put the impact on farmers across Europe and benefits of the ban into perspective. The facts show that it has brought considerable costs for our customers and has had significant environmental implications. The ban has cost European OSR farmers €350 million in lost revenue. The EU ban on neonicotinoids was imposed to protect honey bees, but so far there has not been any positive benefit for bees or other pollinators. That is the sad conclusion we have to draw right now.
Why is Bayer SeedGrowth a competence brand that will continue to thrive?
Martin: It’s not difficult to answer this question: Bayer SeedGrowth is the only fully integrated system for on-seed applications on the market. We offer tailor-made solutions at the intersection of products, coatings, equipment, and services. And this makes us not only unique, but also the ideal partner for growth. We will definitely continue to support our customers with our strong, innovative, and comprehensive portfolio, and our strong service, equipment, and coatings business – this is exactly what will give us the strength we need to remain the partner of choice in seed-applied technologies. And this is exactly where my successor Boualem Saidi comes into play. He is as fully committed to further building on the success of our long-term Bayer SeedGrowth partnerships as I was. And I am sure that he – together with the whole team – will also engage in new ones.
How does it feel to hand over your position to a new person?
Martin: To be honest, it feels really good. Because with Boualem I know that Bayer SeedGrowth is in good hands. He is very experienced in the field of crop science and very passionate about innovation and tailored solutions in seed-applied technologies. That’s the best qualification, I would say. I know the customers and the industry will join him in the sense of excitement about what the company’s future potential can be.
Martin Gruss (left) and Boualem Saidi (right)
Boualem, Martin paid you a high compliment. How does it feel to step into the Bayer SeedGrowth business now and follow in the steps of Martin?
Boualem: First of all, I would like to thank and congratulate Martin for his exemplary career of 40 years, his passion for seed-applied technologies, his remarkable contribution to developing the Bayer SeedGrowth market, and for positioning Bayer as a strong and credible market leader.
I’m honored and feel high responsibility to join and lead the Bayer SeedGrowth business. I have absolutely no doubt that it is one of the most exciting and vital areas to shape future agricultural success and sustainability, especially in the light of the new Crop Science Division. We have the unique ability to deliver high value to our customers and at the same time create optimal value for our company, while also regaining our market leadership position.
How would you describe Bayer SeedGrowth and all its benefits?
Boualem: For me, Bayer SeedGrowth is all about creating value, fostering partnerships, and promoting sustainability. We create value through innovation, and we are committed to delivering better and tailored solutions to farmers by leveraging our four competences: innovative portfolio, coatings, equipment, and services.
That makes us a trusted partner and overall consultant in maximizing seed value and ultimately crop value. And that makes us partners for growth, because we contribute to growers’ high yields, facilitate sustainable business opportunities for all members in the value chain – and their success is what drives us forward.
Bayer SeedGrowth is an integral part of the value chain. We partner with seed companies and seed dealers to ultimately bring benefits for the grower. Another aspect of partnership is our ability to collaborate with a wide range of cutting-edge technology providers and innovative bodies.
Sustainability is an important dimension of seed application technologies to contribute to better environmental safety and socioeconomic aspects. Additionally, biological seed treatments are expected to be one of the fastest growing seed treatment sectors in the near future.
Is strengthening Bayer’s role in seed-applied technologies your ambition and how do you want to achieve this?
Boualem: Our ambition clearly is to become market leader again in seed-applied technologies. We are working on strengthening our four competence areas. To stay ahead of the game, we invest heavily in R&D, and one of our newest research areas is crop efficiency. We push boundaries in crop efficiency through improved root health, nutrient uptake, and water management – all for the benefit of growing seed investments. I am convinced that we can show some new developments in the next few years.
Our extensive and combined field footprint will largely allow us to consistently deliver tailored and better solutions for all farmers through various combined technologies, such as a combination of chemicals and biologicals.
Is crop efficiency the only strategic Bayer SeedGrowth approach to be ahead of the game?
Boualem: With the successful acquisition of Monsanto, we were forced to divest parts of our portfolio. We still have a very successful and strong portfolio in the market and continuously come up with new innovations: Routine® Start for example, our first seed treatment to control rice blast with long lasting effect, or Redigo® M and Scenic® Gold, two new disease control solutions for the European market. But we are also launching innovations in Bayer SeedGrowth Coatings, such as Peridiam® 319 (corn) and 009 (newly launched for rice in APAC). In terms of Bayer SeedGrowth Equipment, we launched BaySTEP over one year ago and are now very proud that we can offer this innovation license-free!
Furthermore, we’d like to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones, and accelerate alliances and co-operations. We’ll be present at leading industry events such as the ISF World Seed Congress and the European Seed Association (ESA) Annual Meeting, where we will exchange knowledge and establish dialogue with all key players along the value chain.
How can Bayer SeedGrowth benefit from Monsanto’s expertise?
Boualem: Bayer SeedGrowth will benefit a lot from legacy Monsanto expertise. We have a fantastic opportunity to bring together the best technologies, tremendous knowledge in seeds, and customer experience. Digital farming with the Climate Corporation is another strategic area where we can learn and benefit a lot.
Our seed footprint and our unprecedented R&D budget in the industry will strengthen our ability to deliver powerful and tailored solutions for all farmers.
What excites you most about your new role?
Boualem: For me Bayer SeedGrowth presents the perfect symbol of the newly integrated Crop Science Division. It is the intersection of our two core portfolios: crop protection and seeds. I’m passionate about innovation and I strongly believe that biologicals for both biocontrol and crop efficiency will dramatically develop in the near future.
Transformational inoculant might totally change the game, not only for crop protection but also for fertilizer, irrigation, and other areas. Digitalization will undeniably play a key enabler role as well. Participating and driving those transformational changes is an outstanding mission that I would like to embrace.
Where do you see your personal challenges?
Boualem: The main challenge I’d see is that more and more regulatory decisions impact the Bayer SeedGrowth segment, even though it has a high sustainability profile. Many people no longer understand how food is grown. Nor do they understand how much progress is continuously made in increasing sustainability. Many do not see the benefits of our products and technologies, only risks. As a company, and as an industry as well, we need to intensify our communication with society in general, and constantly explain what the benefits are and how we contribute to produce enough healthy and affordable food. So I see this as one of the major tasks and a great opportunity going forward, connecting and communicating our deep commitment to sustainability, as well as deepening our dialogue with society.