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Agrimarketing : January-Febuary 2010
Now armed with an arsenal of innovative products, new management and, as visual proof of its commitment, a brand new headquarters building, Syngenta Seeds, Inc., Minnetonka, MN, is ready to become an even larger player in the North American seed business. Currently the third largest seed company in North America featuring corn, soybean, sorghum, alfalfa and sunflower, its brands include Garst, Golden Harvest and NK Seeds. But it hasn't been easy for Syngenta to gain traction in the rough and tumble seed business. In 1974, Ciba-Geigy's (a legacy Syngenta company) management decided seed was the key to the business's long-term success in the agricultural supply sector. So, it was the first crop protection chemical company to purchase a seed company in the U.S. Their choice was Bloomington, IL-based Funk Seeds International, the legendary company which was one of the earliest developers and marketers of hybrid seed corn. However, it turned out the company had some product performance issues and, as a result, sales shrank. In 1994, Funk was renamed Ciba Seeds which became the first company to receive final approval from the U.S. EPA, making it the first company to market and sell Bt corn. Fast forward to 2004 when Syngenta acquired both Garst Seed Company and Golden Harvest which, combined with NK Seeds, had a 10% share in the seed corn market. Again it was beset with product issues which needed to be corrected. Despite the setbacks, the company began turning things around while still retaining its third place ranking. In 2008, its sales grew 6% in North America to $980 million. NEW ORGANIZATION In 2008, the company brought in U.K.-raised David Morgan as Syngenta Seeds President. A veteran agri-marketer, Morgan began his career with DuPont and has worked for a number of companies including Schering U.K., AgrEvo U.K. and Canada and Aventis CropScience in 2000. He joined Syngenta in 2007 as Regional Head for its Asia Pacific seed unit. Another member of the senior management team is Chuck Lee, who was recently promoted to Vice President of Marketing for the company. He has been with the company for 20 years and joined Syngenta Seeds through its acquisi- tion of Golden Harvest where he led the marketing team. Also joining the company's senior management team is Steve Hawkins as Vice President of Commercial Operations where he is responsible for corn and soybean commercial operations across the three brands. A Syngenta Crop Protection veteran, he most recently served the company as President of its Japanese business unit. Among the many changes that have been implemented since the acquisitions of Garst and Golden Harvest six years ago, most involved the functions the customer rarely comes in direct contact with, such as finance, human resources, produc- tion, research, marketing and com- munications, which have all been consolidated into one system. However, the brands and their sales channel have been maintained. Garst by professional advisors who work directly with customers, Golden Harvest is distributed primarily by a network of farmer- dealers and NK by retailers. Each includes its own branded line of corn hybrids. All Syngenta Seeds dealers sell NK Soybeans seed. "It has sometimes been a struggle to pull everything together, but it just feels right now," Morgan reports. "With our new products and technology we are bringing to the market, you can just feel the excitement and enthusiasm." It also helps to have the complete backing and a renewed interest in the business unit's success by its parent company. With worldwide sales of nearly $12 billion, it has 24,000 employees, operating in 90 countries. "One of the great advantages of being part of Syngenta," Morgan says, "is the collaboration we are implementing with the Crop 18 Agri Marketing January/February 2010 FEATURE STORY SYNGENTA SEEDS' NEW DIRECTION by Lynn Henderson, Editorial Director (more on page 20) y g , p y q , , summer 2008.
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