Exploring new ways to feed a growing population, while protecting the planet is at the centre of the biggest issues in food and ag today, according to Marco Issenmann, Global Head Digital Marketing at Syngenta. Achieving this aim involves innovative and creative thinking which Marco believes can be achieved through a diverse workforce. Large ag companies and smallholder farmers need more support to address challenges such as crop health, productivity, biodiversity, climate change and sustainability and AgTech can play a part in this. Marco who will be speaking at the WFA Summit taking place in Frankfurt next month will be sharing lessons learnt from implementing Syngenta Group’s Future of Work initiative, which he has been leading since July 2020. He will also be discussing how international agribusinesses can leverage diversity in the workforce.
Ahead of the highly anticipated summit, Marco sat down with us to discuss Syngenta Group’s long-term aims for technology, breakdown the fundamental factors of a diverse workforce and offer valuable insights into Syngenta Group’s Cropwise platform and how this technology is leading to better decision making amongst farmers and ag companies around the world.
[WFA] Can you tell us about your role and how you got into the food and ag industry?
[Marco Issenmann] I am driven by the vision to develop tech that can help reduce the impact on our environment and increase quality food production. For over five years now, ever since we incubated our global digital team, I’ve been shaping Syngenta Group’s digital transformation journey in different roles. There are three key components I’m focusing on. Firstly, developing innovative solutions for the Ag industry to optimise the way we feed the word by leveraging technology. Secondly, bringing together individuals from across the globe and inspiring them to bring positive impact to farmers and our planet. Thirdly, creating a high-performance and inclusive environment by building a strong infrastructure, which includes shifting mindsets, removing barriers, increasing accessibility, and improving ways of working.
[WFA] What are the biggest challenges facing businesses today?
[Marco Issenmann] The biggest challenge for us is finding answers to how our industry can feed a growing world population, while protecting our planet. This includes dealing with global threats to agriculture such as climate change, political change or instability, food security and issues in the global food supply chain.
How do we support our diverse customers from large ag companies to small farmers with the very specific challenges they face in their respective countries? How do we reach them across the globe – often in developing countries and without access to reliable technology that will help them reduce costs and increase production? We’re investing a lot of effort and resources into exploring technologies to develop new solutions targeted to address some of these questions.
[WFA] Why do you think a diverse workforce is so beneficial to business operations and addressing some of these challenges?
[Marco Issenmann] At Syngenta Group I believe we have a strong diversity, equity and inclusion culture. In my experience, there are many benefits of a diverse team including:
- Drives innovation: Global teams from different social, cultural, ethnic and educational backgrounds are able to develop better and more disruptive ideas.
- Strengthens attraction, hiring, promotion and retention of talent: Diversity helps to promote our brand and presents the company as an aspiring place to work. This allows you to attract top talent from a wider and more diverse range of pools, as well as develop and retain them.
- Increases creativity: A diverse workforce means a diverse array of perspectives. A variety of problem-solving skillsets that are vital for developing (and executing) business strategies.
- Improves employee engagement: Research shows that diversity, equity, and inclusion lead to higher employee engagement with the organisation and their roles.
- Promotes equity and impacts our society: We believe that at Syngenta Group we have a commitment to our employees, customers, suppliers, and society. To promote a more inclusive and equitable workplace, we have adopted the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, the UN Standards of conduct for business and the Valuable 500 movement. This with the intention to foster and develop a safe place promoting gender equity and tackling discrimination against underrepresented groups from the LGBTQIA+ community and people with disabilities among others.
[WFA] As someone who works in the digital space, can you share with us some of the exciting digital projects you are seeing within your own business and the wider food and ag industry that are disrupting our sector?
[Marco Issenmann] The richness of data and its sources along with rapidly growing affordability of technology and the expanding mobile coverage on the field enables us to develop new solutions which were unthinkable a few years ago. Over the past few years, we have developed the Cropwise platform, which helps farmers and ag companies from APAC, Europe and the Americas to make better and more informed decisions. I’m excited about how services like this can help to increase food production, while ensuring a more sustainable management of agricultural land. With the amount of data we have today, and our powerful prediction models we’re now in a position for some countries to warn farmers in advance about certain plague outbreaks, when it will reach their region, and how they can protect their crops appropriately.
[WFA] Why do you think it’s important for D&I leaders of the sector to meet in person?
[Marco Issenmann] The last two years have been difficult to build new relationships and to nurture existing ones especially in our sector. Personal relationships are essential to drive new ideas which support growth and innovation. Virtual collaboration technology has evolved significantly to bridge some of the distance when people cannot meet face-to-face, but this is not yet able to replace in person exchanges.
Future of Work programs have helped to accelerate adoption of good D&I practices in many companies. However, it’s in such meetings where we’re able to exchange experiences and develop a deeper understanding of these complex issues and share the best practices with each other. Also, it provides us with a chance to gain insight into the challenges we are facing in the different sectors, which helps us to work them out and tackle them together. More specifically, the summit brings passionate people with shared goals and objectives together to create a strong D&I narrative for our industry.
[WFA] What are you most looking forward to learning about and discussing at the WFA Summit in June?
[Marco Issenmann] I’m looking forward to getting inspired by individuals across the industry and learning how others leverage diversity, equity and inclusion to drive innovation. It will be interesting to hear from colleagues how their organisations have managed the pandemic and how it has created new ways of working on their D&I approach. I am also looking forward to sharing how embracing D&I helps us at Syngenta Group unlock our collaboration and innovation potential to shape the future of agriculture.
To find out more about the WFA Summit check out the agenda here: https://wfa-initiative.com/wfa-summit/
Register for the WFA Summit here: https://www.wfasummit.com