David Hollinrake is not an unfamiliar face to journalists who cover agriculture and ag technology. In his former role, he pushed building the ag market, but he's taking on a new challenge for the future as president of Syngenta Seeds LLC.
"We're aiming to make NK Seeds the No. 2 commercial seed provider in the market," he says. "We know it's a big hill to climb, but that's the goal."
It's a tall order, but it appears Syngenta is behind the idea, with a recently announced $400 million investment in its seeds business over the next five years. Hollinrake notes that over the past few years, the Syngenta Seeds business has been "starved of resources." That changes with this investment.
What does it mean? He explains the company will boost its number of plant breeders by 50%, and the field sales and agronomy team threefold.
The company has run under the radar in recent years, as it has seen market share slip in the seeds business. "Yet we have the traits and the germplasm that can perform," Hollinrake says. "Farmers plant, on average, 2.6 different brands. They're looking for multiple hybrids and traits, and we can provide that."
The traits that Syngenta has on the market — including Viptera and Duracade, along with other genetics such as Artesian water-optimized corn — offer what Hollinrake sees as a leg up in this challenge to grow market share. "People in the industry, looking at our product, believe we should have more market share than we have," he says.
The company has invested in plant breeding, with more than an acre under glass in a new facility in Research Triangle Park and extensive tech work in other locations. The NK Seeds brand is the company's commercial line sold through retail outlets including cooperatives. The Golden Harvest brand is also part of the Syngenta Seeds lineup and markets through farmer-dealers.
Focus on the future
Quinn Showalter is head of NK Seeds U.S. sales, and he discusses the breeding program at Syngenta, which includes proprietary germplasm for corn and soybeans. "We want to build the NK brand as a new center for innovation and make the NK brand a unique and different choice in the market," he says.
He points to the soybean breeding program, which has focused on building top-yielding genetics before any biotech traits are added in. This creates a foundation of higher yield bolstered by those new traits.
With that far-reaching goal of hitting No. 2 in the retail seed market for the NK Brand, Showalter and Hollinrake have plenty of work ahead. Showalter notes, "We want a product the retailer can get behind, and we're showing our full commitment to NK and the retail channel with this announcement."
In corn traits, Syngenta brings Viptera and Duracade together in new Agrisure packages for 2018 that Hollinrake says provide alternative above- and belowground pest control for corn not found in competitive lines.
The company is also bringing top traits from other sources marketing Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, and Syngenta has committed to the Enlist E3 platform, which brings 2,4-D, glyphosate and glufosinate tech to the market. And there's more coming in the future.
"We're looking at the MGI trait, which could be available by the end of the decade," Hollinrake says. "That trait confers mesotrione, glufosinate and isoxaflutole tolerance to soybeans, providing a new package to deal with herbicide-resistant weeds."
For Hollinrake, who's been in his new role for just a few months, it's full steam ahead. He and Showalter are accepting a market growth challenge in a segment where Syngenta has struggled in the past. Farmers will see more support and more information about NK brand seeds in the coming months as this effort ramps up. Learn more at nk-us.com.