“One Agriculture is a great theme for the REAP conference. There is a need to drive innovation in a different way from what’s traditionally been done within our industry,” comment Adrian Percy, recently appointed Chief Technology Officer for the global crop solution company UPL, who is to chair the Sofa Session at Agri-Tech East’s inspirational REAP conference.
He continues: “The generation of entrepreneurs coming through are purpose driven. I think they’re looking to have an impact that can be measured in many ways, including something that is good for the planet.
“Increasingly, people are looking for that win-win in terms of a product that is efficacious, is profitable and useful and also enhances environmental sustainability. When you’ve got all of that you really are in a sweet spot and have the basis for a successful product or business. Most of the start-ups working in this area are very keenly attuned to all these different aspects.”
Open innovation approach
UPL, is headquartered in India with an R&D hub centred in North Carolina, the organisation is looking to create win-win situations for all its stakeholders.
UPL has chosen to not develop an extensive in-house research platform and pursues a different R&D approach to many of the incumbent agrochemical companies. Instead it partners with entrepreneurs and external scientists to capture the best ideas and get disruptive technologies out into the market, by providing strengths in in-house development, field trials, regulatory affairs leveraged with an international footprint.
This novel approach to open innovation is the reason why Adrian joined UPL; he comments: “It is a really exciting approach. All the big crop protection companies with their own internal discovery engines are struggling to keep the same innovation rate of the past. At the same time, there is tremendous development in new scientific approaches coming from smaller companies and across from different sectors, such as bio-pharma.
“UPL is using its Open Ag approach to drive innovation in a different way from what’s traditionally been done within the industry. It believes that food production needs to undergo a transformation, which will be driven by new technology.”
Zeba buffers soils against adverse impacts
Recent innovations at UPL include Zeba, a product based on corn starch which increases retention of water in soils and then degrades providing food for microbes improving soil health.
Adrian continues: “Zeba sits on both the axis of water management, water efficiency, water saving but also soil health. This is the type of technology that is needed to supplement everything that’s already been done with nutrition and fertilisers and crop protection tools”
Advisor to agri-tech investor
Alongside his role at UPL, Adrian is also an advisor to early-stage companies and works with a west coast USA venture capital group, Finistere Ventures, which is actively investing in agri-tech. So, he has visibility of much emerging agri-tech and is looking forward to meeting the innovators at REAP.
“REAP will provide a great opportunity for dialogue about concerns for the future and the opportunities to address them with new technology and approaches. The people we’ve got on the panel at REAP are fantastic examples of those who are looking to positively impact our planet.
“It’s going to be fun – I’m looking forward to it.”
Find out more about REAP at reapconference.co.uk