World Agri-Tech sat down with Bob Reiter, Head of R&D at Crop Science Division of Bayer to discuss the company’s recent new initiative to reward farmers with carbon credits, how to tailor crops in different soil and climatic conditions and how it maintains its open innovation strategy.

Bob Reiter - Bayer Crop Science - Virtual World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit
Bob Reiter, Head of R&D at Crop Science Division of Bayer

Bayer just announced a new initiative to reward farmers in Brazil and the US with carbon credits for adopting climate smart practices. How is climate action driving your innovation focus? What crops are you targeting and how are you tailoring solutions to different soil and climatic conditions? What advances are needed to improve the mechanism and measurements of carbon sequestration?
Sustainability is a central value lever within the Bayer Group and an important part of our Crop Science business strategy. To effectively address climate change, we aim to enable farmers to reduce in-field greenhouse gas emissions per kg of crop produced by 30% by 2030. Science and innovation will play a crucial role in achieving this ambitious target. We already have a range of technologies in place to increase productivity and enable climate-smart practices like no-till farming and precision application and expect further gains to come out of our pipeline over the coming years. With the Bayer Carbon Initiative, we will leverage the value of our digital ag platform Climate FieldView and work closely with farmers and local partners in order to gain scientific surety about how much carbon is sequestered given the many variables in place in different farming environments. The initial focus of the Carbon Initiative is on corn and soybean farmers in the U.S. and Brazil, and we plan to later expand the program into other world regions.

How do farmers benefit from their carbon credits? What systems currently exist and what robust certification processes will be needed for farmers to play in carbon trading platforms?
Keeping carbon out of the atmosphere has tremendous value – to our planet, to our future, and to organizations trying to tackle the climate crisis. We think the next level of change will happen when we measure that value and make sure farmers can integrate it into their business models. By establishing a fair, transparent price for carbon and enabling farmers to be incentivized for capturing it, we can establish a viable additional revenue stream for farmers and encourage them to further invest in innovation. Bayer has been working the past several years with external partners on our soil carbon methodology and has established a model validated by internationally recognized registries such as Gold Standard, VERRA (Verified Carbon Standards) and Climate Action Reserve to further strengthen our carbon accounting framework.

How important is open innovation to your strategy and why? What partner profiles are you looking to connect with?
Open innovation is critical to our strategy. We cannot solve agriculture’s most significant challenges alone. Our Open Innovation and Strategic Partnerships team seeks out partners whose profiles run the gamut from the smallest start-ups to established players. To be specific, we work with organizations on a wide continuum that ranges from proof of concept, incubation and acceleration, R&D collaborations, asset licensing, enabling licensing, and joint ventures. We also invest in opportunities through our venture capital arm, Leaps by Bayer. We will have several of our innovation scouts taking part in the summit – as we do every year – and we encourage anyone interested to reach out and connect with us.

What emerging technologies are particularly exciting for the sector?
We primarily focus on biology, biotechnology, crop protection, and data science, with particular interest in megatrends – those themes that will affect how food and fiber are grown 20, 30, even 40 years from now. One concrete example in the context of climate action is the work by the team at our joint venture JoynBio on nitrogen fixation, enabling crops to take advantage of soil microbes that convert nitrogen into a form they can absorb through their roots. Synthetic nitrogen accounts for 3% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and JoynBio’s effort could help significantly lower this amount.

Join Bob Reiter at the virtual World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit on September 15 and tune into the Opening Plenary discussion on: ‘Building Resilience: How Will a Black Swan Event like COVID-19 Accelerate Change in the Agri-Food Industry?’ at 9am EST.

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