UPL is now one of the top five agriculture solutions companies in the world. Ahead of the virtual World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, we spoke to Adrian Percy, CTO at UPL about the company launching its OpenAg Center and how this will benefit scientists and start-ups to improve technology development for the agtech industry.

Adrian Percy, CTO, UPL

UPL has very quickly made its way to becoming the number 5 agriculture solutions company globally. Tell us a little more about who UPL is and how you differentiate amongst the other Ag companies in the industry.

UPL’s story began more than 50 years ago in India. We continue to grow leaps and bounds through successful acquisitions of new products and companies and by entering new sectors that rapidly expand our global footprint. The acquisition of Arysta LifeScience in 2018 represented the largest in our existence. As a result, we are more than 10,000 team members strong and are now one of the top 5 agriculture solutions companies worldwide with a presence in 138 countries, 44 manufacturing facilities, 25 R&D facilities, 13,600 product registrations, and access to 90% of the world’s food basket. As a new company, we offer an integrated portfolio of both patented and post-patent agricultural solutions for various arable and specialty crops, including biological, crop protection and seed treatment across the food value chain.

As part of our evolution, we have a new purpose that differentiates us from others in our industry. We call it OpenAgTM. It leads us to focus on facilitating progress for the entire agricultural value chain, including growers, distributors, suppliers and innovation partners. We are building a network that redefines the way an entire industry thinks and works— open to fresh ideas, innovative ways, and new answers for creating a more sustainable future for agriculture.

UPL has launched the OpenAg Center, which operates as an accelerator programme in collaboration with outside companies, entrepreneurs and scientists to cultivate new ideas and technologies from across the world. Why are you launching the OpenAg Center now during these challenging times, and is Open Innovation a solution for top-tier ag companies to stay relevant?

We believe there is no better time than the present to introduce our new way of approaching technology development to the industry. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, UPL remains fully operational, including the new OpenAg Center, with no disruption to the manufacturing or delivery of our products and services. We will continue to safeguard our employees as our top priority by following the stringent protocols recommended by the WHO and CDC. With our population continuing to grow and our resources becoming scarcer, the world needs our urgency and continued focus.

UPL believes it makes perfect sense for large agriculture organizations to create win-win partnerships rather than trying to develop all new technologies internally. We continue to see science and technology advancing at an incredible rate. Many new areas of discovery come from outside of our industry or from start-ups within our industry. Inwardly focused R&D operations have become a model of the past that is not sustainable for future innovation. Collaborations are much faster and more agile. New technologies are also very diverse, requiring different skillsets to be successful.

To align with this approach, UPL recently launched a new online portal to quickly connect innovators with our experts to start these conversations. To learn more, visit upl-ltd.com/open-ag-center.  

What types of technologies will the OpenAg Center develop and how are you targeting different geographies?

Through the opening of our new OpenAg Center in Research Triangle Park, NC, USA, our team of seasoned, sought-after scientists are able to leverage our state of the art laboratories to quickly validate a wide range of technologies— including the latest array of biologically-inspired approaches to more traditional chemistry-based innovations. We are particularly interested in technologies that enhance sustainability on the farm and increase grower resilience. Additionally, we are very interested in pursuing digital technologies which can enable the effectiveness of our product range.

The OpenAg center serves as an externally facing R&D hub that connects directly with our Agriculture Research & Development Station Network (ARDS) to help transition product research in the lab to product development in the field. Our stations are spread out amongst strategic growing geographies in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

How will the OpenAg Center tackle the challenges that start-ups face in bringing their solutions to market from formulation, field trials to the end customer?

At UPL, we believe our industry needs to evolve and think outside the box. Today’s slow rate of technology innovation and on-farm deployment won’t keep up with the food security and sustainability needs of our growing population. We find the traditional model for innovation disconnected, slow-moving, frustrating, with high-costs and large barriers to overcome. Through our work at the OpenAg Center, we are focused on solving problems that have plagued the ag world for decades by breaking the ag innovation mold and bringing new technologies that support sustainable agriculture to farmers around the world.

Our OpenAg purpose is redefining how we approach technology innovation by driving development programs based on market and portfolio needs while remaining technology agnostic, removing the need for large-scale fixed infrastructure, and combining the agility of a start up with the IP, R&D, field development, and registration expertise of an industry leader. We believe this win-win partnership model will speed the process of getting new technologies tested, approved, and out in the field.

Adrian Percy will deliver a keynote presentation on ‘Embracing Collaboration to Drive Technology & Innovation’ at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit on September 16, 2020 at 2:40PM BST.

About Adrian Percy:

With more than 25 years of experience in the agricultural industry, is an advocate of the need for and benefits of modern agriculture. He is also a strong proponent of the development and adoption of new agricultural and food technologies that support global food security while conserving the environment.

Adrian currently serves as the CTO of UPL Ltd, a major crop protection company that is a leader in global food systems. He also serves as a Venture Partner at Finistere Ventures LLC, a technology and life sciences venture capital investor, focused on transforming the food value chain.

Previously, Adrian served as the head of research and development for the Crop Science division of Bayer as part of their executive committee. In this role, he had responsibility for internal and open innovation activities in the areas of crop protection chemistry and biologicals, as well as seeds and traits. During his 16-year tenure at Bayer, he also led crop protection development activities for Bayer in North America and regulatory affairs activities across the entire division of Crop Science.

A global ag advocate, he has held numerous positions in the research and development departments of Rhone Poulenc, Aventis CropScience and Bayer in France, Germany and the United States.

Adrian serves on the board of directors of BioLumic, HiFidelity Genetics, Biotalys and Evogene. He is also a member of the science and technology boards of Terramera, Biotalys and Rothamsted Research.

Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Adrian earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, as well as a master’s degree in toxicology and a doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Birmingham. He now resides in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, USA.

About UPL:

UPL is a global provider of sustainable agriculture products & solutions, with annual revenue exceeding $5B USD. As one of the top 5 agriculture solutions companies worldwide, our robust portfolio consists of biologicals and traditional crop protection solutions with more than 13,600 registrations. With a presence in more than 130 countries and more than 10,000 colleagues globally, we reach more than 90% of the world’s food basket. For more information about our integrated portfolio of solutions across the food value chain including seeds, post-harvest, as well as physical and digital services, please visit upl-ltd.com.