Boualem Saidi, Bayer’s new global head of SeedGrowth, sits down with outgoing head Martin Gruss, who will retire after more than 40 years of service to the company.

For more than a decade, Martin Gruss has carried the Bayer SeedGrowth baton as head. Now, he’s passing the baton to Boualem Saidi, and Seed World finds out what’s top of mind as one exits and another enters.

Seed World: Martin, you’re retiring after more than 40 years of service. What are you most proud of?

Martin Gruss: Completing 40 years in this company, I have certainly gained a great deal of experience. The biggest thing I have learned is that you have to understand your customer and his business, so that you know how to add value to his business. What excites me most is that we achieved growth through innovation, passion and commitment, and this growth has not stopped.

SW: When someone says “Bayer SeedGrowth,” what do you hope comes to mind?

MG: We are the only fully integrated system for on-seed applications on the market. With more than 100 years of experience in the market, we stand for expertise and consistency.

SW: How has the environment changed and what has it meant?

MG: One of the most challenging developments during the past few years was the European Union verdict that certain neonicotinoids will remain restricted. We are convinced of the safety of these products when applied according to label. Since the imposed ban was implemented in 2013, it’s possible to put the impact into perspective. The ban has cost European oilseed rape farmers 350 million euros in lost revenue. The ban on neonicotinoids was imposed to protect honeybees, but so far there has been no positive benefit for pollinators.

The whole seed treatment industry and value chain will have to work even closer than it does today to meet future challenges like this even better.

SW: What one wish do you have for the seed treatment world?

MG: I’ve learned that it’s more and more important to also address the benefits our technologies bring to society in providing a stable and affordable food supply in a sustainable way. Many do not understand how food is grown. They also don’t understand how much progress is continuously made in increasing sustainability. That is why it is important to repeatedly underline the value seed treatment delivers to agriculture. This includes the basic principles of why seeds are treated, and the role seed treatment plays in a sustainable integrated pest management program.

I wish politicians and the public would recognize that agriculture benefits a great deal from seed-applied technologies and that seed treatment will continue to be a critical element of sustainable agriculture.

SW: With the freedom of retirement, what do you most look forward to?

MG: I look forward to seeing how Bayer SeedGrowth will be developed further by the team and my successor Boualem Saidi. Bayer SeedGrowth is full of great, passionate and innovative minds. And this is exactly where Boualem comes into play. He is as fully committed to further building on the success of our long-term Bayer SeedGrowth partnerships as I was. I am sure that he, together with the whole team, will also engage in new ones. As for me, I am sure that there are many private tasks waiting for me after my Bayer era. Life won’t be boring, and my family will be happy to see much more of me.

SW: Congratulations on the new position! Tell a little about yourself and what steps you’re taking to acclimate to the new role.

Boulaem Saidi: I’m an agronomist by training and have been with Bayer for 24 years, mostly in commercial and general management roles. During that time, I’ve worked in different parts of the world learning and contributing to agriculture development in Europe, Africa and Asia.

I’m honored to join and lead the Bayer SeedGrowth business. I have no doubt that it is one of the most exciting and vital areas to shape future agricultural success and sustainability, especially in the light of the new Crop Science division. The first steps I’d like to take in my new role are to spend time in the field and market place, connect with customers, listen to their perspective, understand their needs and later on, make sure that it is reflected in everything we do.

SW: When you survey the landscape of the seed treatment industry, what three things catch your eye?

BS: Seed-applied technologies represent:

An amazing field for innovation in both chemistry and biologics for bio-control or crop efficiency.

A very well-articulated value chain with a high degree of partnership and collaboration to offer the best solutions for farmers.

A remarkable tool to foster sustainability in agriculture, despite increased regulatory scrutiny, especially in the EU.

SW: What are your top goals for the year ahead?

BS: Our ambition is clearly to regain market leadership in seed-applied technologies. To stay ahead of the game, we invest heavily in research and development, and one of our newest research areas is crop efficiency. We push boundaries in crop efficiency through improved root health, nutrient uptake, and water management — all to the benefit of growing seed investments. I am convinced that we can show some new developments in the next few years.

SW: What do you think the industry needs to do as a whole to advance?

BS: As an industry, we need to engage more and intensify our communication with the society in general, and be constantly explaining the benefits of seed treatment and how we contribute to producing enough healthy and affordable food and fiber. I see this as one of the major tasks and a great opportunity — connect and communicate our deep commitment for sustainability, as well as deepen our dialogue with society. For me, it´s all about providing innovation, fostering collaboration and promoting sustainability. That’s why industry events, such as the International Seed Federation’s World Seed Congress, the European Seed Association’s annual meeting or the American Seed Trade Association’s seed expo, remain important platforms for exchanging knowledge and establishing dialogue with key players throughout the value chain.

SW: What one thing are you most excited about?

BS: Personally, I am passionate about innovation in general and seed-applied technologies, and believe that we can create high value for farmers by designing, testing and implementing suitable tailored solutions. We rely on our field footprint, high proximity to the growers and our unprecedented research and development investments and capabilities in the industry to deliver powerful and tailored solutions for all farmers. This excites me!

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