Interview with Corteva’s new Marketing Leader in Europe, Monica Sorribas
Corteva Agriscience is committed to advancing sustainable agriculture to enrich lives and our planet for generations to come. The company has established 14 goals to achieve by 2030 that will increase the resilience of the global food system. A good moment to interview Monica Sorribas, recently appointed Marketing Leader, Europe for Corteva, and get her take on Corteva’s push for sustainability.
Q: Monica, can you tell me a bit about your background?
It is a bit of long story, as I have moved significantly and have spent last 10 years working in the U.S. after my initial steps working in Europe. I am always proud to say that my background is in agronomy, and all my career has been connected to grower needs and how, in our legacy companies and now with Corteva Agriscience, we understand what those needs are so that we bring the right product to the right location for all our farmers. A little bit more about my background, I started my career in research in Spain working with crop protection products and seed, mainly focusing on corn and cotton. Moving to the U.S., I led one of our research centres on the West Coast, California, to then move to our Indianapolis headquarters where I was leading one of the projects on seed new technologies Enlist® Weed Control System. More recently, I was working in our Johnston, Iowa Global Business Center leading globally the development and launch of new product and technologies across Seed, Crop Protection and Digital efforts in Corteva.
Q: You started off as a field biologist at Dow Agrosciences back in 2003. So, you have been with the company for almost 18 years now. What makes it so interesting to work for this employer?
Previously with Dow AgroSciences and now with Corteva, what has really connected with me is the thrive to always put farmers in the centre of everything we do. We have also now gone one step further and really ensured we have consumers, all of us at the end of the day, in the centre of our work. I also enjoy very much our culture at Corteva, it has been an amazing journey to bring three organizations together with Dupont Crop Protection, DuPont Pioneer and Dow Agrosciences and through the merger create one team, one organization as Corteva with the same mission and vision. We are a big great family and it has been a true privilege working with great professionals and now more in depth in Europe.
Q: You recently moved from Iowa over to Europe. Can you share what will your main roles be over here?
I started my new role as Marketing Leader Director for Corteva in Europe on July 1, and am responsible to develop the regional marketing strategy across our business units in Corteva, Seed, Crop Protection and Digital, and working closely regionally, leveraging our global innovation and overall assets, while acting locally.
Q: What do you hope to achieve while in Europe?
I feel very honoured to come back to Europe in the position as Marketing Leader to serve our customers with the strongest portfolio of products possible and drive the sustainable growth of farming operations over the long-term. We have the right portfolio and the right organization and teams to deliver on this commitment of supporting our customers and provide farmers with the tools they need to keep growing, while addressing continuously evolving consumer needs.
Q: Seed Applied Technologies (SAT) is a major business pillar for Corteva in Europe. What triggered your company to invest in SAT?
We can say that seed treatment is the newest segment of plant protection products and it is also an area that is growing strongly. Corteva Agriscience is an active part of the evolution of the seed treatment to a more professional, modern and sustainable business. Our commitment is to deliver more innovative solutions by discovering, developing and providing advanced seed applied technologies. Corteva has first-hand knowledge of farmers’ practices and needs through its vast seeds network, with more than 90 years and over a billion units of seeds treated. Along with that, comes the superior science of globally renowned heritage crop protection companies on research & development, which adds more than crop protection chemical experience and takes it to the level of seed treatments including biologicals, polymers, inoculants and services.
Q: I understand SAT has several benefits. What would you say are the major ones?
One of the key benefits is definitely related to sustainability. Did you know that foliar or in furrow application can use up to 10 times higher amounts of active ingredient than seed treatment? The benefits go further. Besides providing cost savings to farmers compared with broader foliar pesticides applications, seed treatment helps to improve the ability of the seeds to fight against external abiotic and biotic stresses and moreover, promotes foster seedling establishment and early plant growth. It is very effective against a broader range of plant parasites and, with a more targeted protection, it is already effective with a small amount of product well applied, providing extended protection during the most important stage of plant development.
Q: Are you able to lift the veil a bit on some key innovations that are in your SAT portfolio?
In 2020, over five million hectares of hybrid crops have been planted with our brand-new growth nutrition seed treatment LUMIDAPT ™, a new type of organic mineral fertilizer engineered to enhance plant’s metabolic activity, physiology, and stress endurance in a proactive manner. This season, in several fields affected by unusual very cold spring (early frost), it was easier to observe that plants treated with our product were germinating faster and recovering quicker from the stress versus the untreated ones. Our goal for 2021 is to reach over 10 million hectares with this solution and bring to the market a new standard for hybrid crop establishment.
Q: Corteva is focusing heavily on sustainability. Why is that?
Farmers face a growing set of challenges. As a leader in agricultural innovation, we are committed to working with farmers and others in agriculture to protect and preserve the source of our food and help our agriculture communities thrive. We work with farmers to promote sustainable practices and promote the adoption and recognition of the work farmers are doing. Our recently announced Enriching Lives Together Sustainability Strategy is our public commitment to advance sustainability for farmers, for the land, in our communities and in our operations. We are formally activating our commitment through 14 sustainability goals that span across the globe and across our entire business. They quantify and track our work to increase the resilience of our global food system over the next 10 years.
Q: Which are some of the products where you see much of those sustainability goals in practice?
Our seeds and crop protection products help to increase yield and productivity. We sell Optimum® AQUAmax® corn varieties in Europe. These corn varieties deliver a yield advantage in water-limited environments and top-end yield potential under optimal growing conditions. The rapid moisture loss of our varieties allows farmers to reduce the costs of the non-renewable natural resources like gas for drying grain in the fall. Lumiposa™. The first non-neonic seed treatment for oilseed rape and other crops resolves an urgent problem of oilseed rape growers and ensures continued production of European oil. Lumisena™, our newest technology for downy mildew control, is designed to help growers to maximize the full potential of their sunflower crop with a favourable environmental profile. Ympact®, our pre-launch on growth nutrition seed treatment for cereals, is based on a scientifically proven and patented nutrient technology that naturally improves plants physiology, reduces stress and improves yield and crop quality. Our innovative nitrogen stabilizers N-Lock™ with Optinyte™ technology ensure nitrogen gets to the plant’s root zone — not the air or water — and help keep it there. We opened access to CRISPR-Cas gene-editing technology to help researchers find ways to grow food that is better for people and the environment.
Q: Let’s switch gears a bit towards the seed side. What are some of the exciting seed pipeline innovations for the next season?
I am very excited about our seed innovation. For corn, we will continue to bring very strong and competitive genetics along with some of the key native traits including the already mentioned Optimum® AQUAmax® corn varieties. For sunflower, we are expanding our disease tolerant Pioneer Protector® product line, we are strengthening our new, improved offering for the healthy oil markets along with strong and well adapted genetics for the European growing conditions. While in the case of oilseed rape, we are coming with new solutions in the disease tolerant segment too.
Q: In the times of this COVID-19 pandemic it is not easy to keep good contacts with your customers, the farmers. How do you stay in touch with them?
Our approach during the pandemic has been based on three key pillars: ensuring our employees are safe, supporting our customers and reaching out to communities in need. Because agriculture was named an essential industry by most European countries, our teams have been able to provide farmers with the seeds, crop protection products and services upon which they rely. Following governmental and company safety guidelines, dedicated Corteva representatives have continued visiting farms and reporting back to growers on conditions, maintaining a closeness with our customers despite the necessary social distancing measures. We have seen impressive innovation with webinars, virtual field tours and online Q&As taking place to ensure we continue to provide customers with the unrivalled service to which they have become accustomed.