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Co-Founder & CEO of Valagro talks about strategic collaborations shaping the global biologicals marketqrcode

Dec. 3, 2020

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Dec. 3, 2020


image.pngWorld Agri-Tech caught up with Giuseppe Natale, Co-Founder & CEO of Valagro, to discuss how the company’s recent acquisition by Syngenta will accelerate biostimulant product development and how the adoption of biologicals across the ag sector is expected to increase over the next few years.

Valagro is one of the largest biostimulant companies globally. To date, there have been very few acquisitions of the major ag businesses in this segment. What factors drove your acquisition by Syngenta, and do you think we will see more acquisitions by larger ag players in the future?

To join Syngenta Crop Protection was a strategic choice for Valagro Group, aimed at developing synergies and strengthening the company’s operational dimension and investment capacity from the perspective of strengthening competitiveness and growth worldwide.

For forty years, we have been building a strong and solid business by pioneering the biostimulants sector, and as evidence that Valagro has always been a safe business, we can consider last years’ results. Looking to the future, we are aware that our size is not sufficient to face the challenges that agriculture poses to us: our decision to join Syngenta Crop Protection will allow Valagro to carry on being competitive in the global market in the long term.

The acquisition of Valagro is an example of a trend that will characterize the sector in the coming years: the current scenario increasingly paves the way for mergers and acquisitions in the industry led by big market players. The agrochemical international groups have an operational dimension and an investment capacity that allow them to effectively face the new challenges on a global scale and the changes in the agriculture technology business.

We consider the acquisition of Valagro Group by Syngenta Crop Protection to be a game changer: by fostering the entrepreneurial spirit and culture of Valagro, powered by Syngenta’s global scale and capability, together we will shape the future of the global biologicals market which is expected to double in size in the next five years.

How do Syngenta’s capabilities complement Valagro’s innovation strategy? How will this help accelerate product development?

The entry into Syngenta Crop Protection opens up new growth prospects for Valagro worldwide and will allow us to invest even more effectively in the sustainable future of agriculture in which we believe.

Both companies have a foundation in science-based innovation and are eager to collaborate, share knowledge and build on each other’s capabilities, driven by a shared vision that places sustainability at the centre of their activities, which means the ability to bring about development and wellbeing by using fewer resources and thus reducing their environmental impact. This was proven by the 2 billion dollars sustainable agriculture investment program, the Good Growth Plan, launched last year by Syngenta Crop Protection.

We expect that the acquisition will result in strong synergies between the two companies that will provide Valagro with considerable resources that could help Valagro further advance its efforts to develop environmentally-compatible, safe and efficacious products, with advantages for the business, for our customers and for our commercial partners worldwide.

Where is biostimulants having the greatest success in agriculture? What factors are driving this? Which crops and regions do you see the biggest growth market in the future?

Today, the worldwide consumers are asking for more inclusive and sustainable food systems: they are more informed and demanding about how the food reaching their tables is produced. This is the core of the European Farm to Fork strategy, meaning that this relevant commitment towards sustainable agriculture is considered crucial from international authorities as well.

Biostimulants, and more widely biologicals, can successfully meet this trend on a global scale: these innovative solutions are able to help growers managing resistance, especially in high-value crops, enhancing soil health and reducing residues in crops. In a nutshell, biostimulants and biologicals can combine crop productivity with a greater sustainability.

Europe was the cradle for the development of these ag solutions which then spread to North and South America. Today, there are huge growth opportunities in China and India, as well as in Africa that represents the future of agriculture. Regarding crops, if it is true that over 70% of our revenues rely on the sale of products for horticulture and fruit crops, it is interesting to note that in the United States and Brazil there is a demand for biostimulant products for industrial crops. So, our attention will increasingly focus on this segment as well.

What technologies, equipment and digital tools will improve the deployment and efficacy of biostimulants?

We have an important portfolio of innovative products that we sell in 80 countries around the world. To obtain the best performance, our products need to match the soil and climatic conditions of the different growing areas, which is why we have focused on training.

The Valagro Academy has allowed us to train more than 32,000 technicians and farmers in 20 countries through more than 1,300 meetings so far.

We also bet on the support of technology; earlier this year we launched a new company, called Yaxe®, which focuses on innovative digital solutions in agriculture to help optimize crop inputs and resources at the farm level.

What influence are you seeing from ag retailers in shaping the evolution of the biostimulants sector? How is ag retail helping/hindering adoption?

Innovative solutions such as biostimulants, and more widely biologicals, will be increasingly required and this will boost their presence in the market. On one hand, farmers have to meet the growing food demand by winning the challenge of preserving soil fertility and fighting against the climate change that negatively affects crop productivity; on the other hand, consumers are pushing for zero residue products.

This demand is increasingly being picked up by the main European and international institutions for which sustainability is becoming the cornerstone of the main policies that States will have to adopt in the short-term. An example is the European Green Deal and its core strategy, the Farm to Fork, or more broadly the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The more science is able to demonstrate the benefits of biostimulants to plant health, allowing plants to fight environmental stress and form better-quality fruits, the more biostimulants and biologicals are perceived as indispensable solutions and no longer as nice-to-have products by farmers and retail chains.

In other words, the combination of the above factors, empowered by advances in the R&D as well as in the regulatory framework, will lead ag-retailers to help, rather than to hinder, the adoption of biologicals.

What are you most looking forward to at the summit, and what connections and partnerships are you looking to make?

The World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit is certainly an ideal place to combine winning ideas and proposals for the agriculture of the future: this is why Valagro wants to be present, in order to harness all the opportunities to illustrate to a world audience its strategic vision on sustainable agriculture and to get to know the companies and start-ups that are moving in this direction.

Join Giuseppe Natale at the virtual World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit on March 9 and tune into the panel discussion on: ‘Ecosystem Health: How Do We Solve a Giant Nitrogen & Phosphorus Crisis in Agriculture? at 11.40 PT.


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