Prior to starting my RC year at Harvard Business School, I worked as a Supply Chain Project Leader at Dow AgroSciences. Dow Ag, often referred to as DAS, is a $6.8 billion global company with a mission to feed the growing world by using sustainable chemicals and biotechnology to increase yield. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, the two key business are Seeds and Crop Protection. The Seeds business focuses on the development of various seed technology, while Crop Protection encompasses products that you apply to crops and soil such as herbicides, pesticides, and nitrogen stabilizers1.
The operating model at DAS begins with its pipeline of products. After 10 to 13 years of discovery and gate stages, crop protection and biological traits respectively2, DAS is ready to launch its new herbicide or seed. Generated by production campaigns either in house or via a contract manufacturer, end products are distributed directly to the customer or to a storage facility such as a warehouse or terminal. R&D and business leaders are constantly asking themselves what challenges are their customers facing today, what will they need in the future, and what can we do to help.
Climate change – the attack on agriculture
Naturally as an agricultural and technology company, the success of Dow AgroSciences is highly influenced by the effects that climate change has on the farmer. As weather patterns vary and temperatures increase, a farmer may be forced to delay or even shorten his or her growing season. Too much rain or a drought can have negative implications such as an increase in pests, weeds, and parasites, all resulting in lower yield.
Agricultural products are seasonal, and as the farmer faces variability in the weather, his or her demand will also vary. A challenge that DAS has to face is generating an accurate forecast despite the variation in weather patterns due to climate change. Commercial is well verse in the various growing seasons for their products, but it’s difficult to predict drastic seasonal changes. Drastic changes can lead to inaccurate forecasting which ultimately could lead to a shortage of product, increased inventory storage costs, and disruptions to production campaigns.
Innovation and technology fight back!
Dow AgroSciences is addressing the issue of climate change through product innovation and sustainability. The chemists and biologists are developing products such as genetically engineered seeds and nitrogen stabilizers that enable crops to adapt to the effects of fluctuating weather patterns, droughts, and extreme heat. N-Serve® and Instinct® II are two nitrogen stabilizers that help reduce leaching and greenhouse gas emissions by keeping nitrogen in the root zone3; leaching is the loss of nutrients in the soil due to an over abundant amount of water.
Another way DAS is attacking climate change is through their genetically modified seeds. Scientists are studying the effects of climate change to develop seeds that not only fight against insects and weeds, but also fight against extreme weather; the scientist are testing various breeding techniques to ultimately maximize yield and reduce the impact on the environment. Another benefit is that an effective seed may require less usage of herbicides and pesticides, thus reducing fuel from tractor passes, and ultimately CO2 emission4,5. The Mycogen® Seeds portfolio provides a variety of genetically modified seeds such as corn, soybeans, and sunflowers6,7. The built-in characteristics allow the crop to fight against the weather variables throughout the duration of the growing season.
Although climate change has a negative impact on crops, the implications open the doors to innovation in agriculture technology and reinforce the need for DAS product. As the world continues to confront climate change, Dow AgroSciences continues to research ways to improve climate predictability as well as how to innovate new products. In the end, irregular weather can have negative implications on agriculture, but Dow AgroSciences will continue to supply seeds and crop protection to farmers in order to increase yield and feed the ever-growing world!
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