US agricultural science company Corteva Agriscience debuts on New York Stock Exchange

Corteva began trading at a listing price of US$26.50 (S$36.25).
Corteva began trading at a listing price of US$26.50 (S$36.25).ST PHOTO: CHERYL TEH

NEW YORK - American agricultural science company Corteva Agriscience is the latest big agriculture business to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, in a boost to its plans to create modified crops and technologies to help farmers worldwide, including in Asia.

The company develops high-tech farming methods and produces special crops, such as temperature and flood-resistant crops like rice, wheat and corn. The crops can have their genes engineered so that they grow well even in harsh weather conditions.

This could improve the harvests in Asia where rice is a national food security issue, said the company.

Corteva is a spin-off of the agriculture divisions of chemical corporation Dow Chemical, science and innovation heavyweight DuPont, and Pioneer Hybrid International, a producer of genetically modified crops and hybrid seeds.

Ringing the opening bell at the stock exchange on Monday (June 3), Corteva CEO Jim Collins said: "We are excited to mark the launch of a new kind of agriculture company, well positioned to compete and win by providing farmers the complete solution they need for sustainable, long-term growth and improved profitability."

The company, which began trading at a listing price of US$26.50 (S$36.25), has over 20,000 staff in more than 140 research and development facilities worldwide.

Its Asia-Pacific portfolio spans 16 countries, including Singapore where its new regional headquarters and research centre opened last month.

Mr Peter Ford, president of Asia Pacific at Corteva's agriculture division, said Singapore will benefit not only from affordable, high quality produce imported from South-east Asian nations, but also increased access to cutting edge, farming methods developed by Corteva.

"Singapore is in a unique position, where it provides a collaborative environment for data analytics, which makes it easy to develop a strong core for a local research and development programme," he said. "The technologies that go out to other countries will come back to Singapore to advance vertical and urban farming locally."

The Republic is working towards the goal of producing 30 per cent of its food locally by 2030.

Corteva executives said the company's global presence and network of researchers may open up new opportunities for Singapore to find ways to efficiently grow its own climate-resistant crops, using Corteva's special seeds and high-tech, space-saving farming methods.

The Asia-Pacific region made up 10 per cent of the company's global revenue in 2018, and the region is set to grow more quickly in the years to come, said Mr Ford.

"Rice is a national food security issue in Asia. We intend to develop our seed production further, and educate more local farmers about hybrid seeds and new technologies," he added.

"In most of the region, we face chronic issues with the supply of water, and issues with an ageing population and with that a reduced amount of labour available for farming. With our hybrid seeds, we have high-yield potential, while reducing the amount of water needed."

Technologies from Corteva could also potentially reduce the manpower required.

Mr Ford cited new innovations which include drones that map and monitor farmlands, and seeds precoated with protection against pests and diseases, which might reduce the labour and monetary costs involved in continually spraying fields with pesticides.

Corteva's stock exchange debut is the latest in consolidations in the international agriscience market. It follows German pharmaceutical and life sciences company Bayer AG's US$63 billion purchase of seed company Monsanto in 2018, and China National Chemical Corporation's takeover of Swiss pesticide and seed company Syngenta AG for US$43 billion in 2017.