US firm says its high-tech farming methods could benefit Singapore

Corteva Agriscience chief executive Jim Collins (right) ringing a ceremonial bell to begin trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. PHOTO: REUTERS
Corteva Agriscience chief executive Jim Collins (right) ringing a ceremonial bell to begin trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. PHOTO: REUTERS

American company Corteva Agriscience is the latest big agriculture business to list in New York as it aims to create modified crops and technologies to help farmers worldwide, including in Asia.

The firm develops high-tech farming methods and said it has the capabilities to produce special crops, such as temperature-and flood-resistant ones 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 harvests in Asia, said the company.

Corteva is a spin-off from 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.

Corteva chief executive Jim Collins said on Monday: "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 has around 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 from increased access to Corteva's cutting-edge farming methods.

"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."

Singapore is working towards producing 30 per cent of its food locally by 2030.

Corteva said its global presence and network of researchers may help Singapore find ways to efficiently grow its own climate-resistant crops, using the firm's special seeds and high-tech, space-saving farming methods.

The Asia-Pacific region made up 10 per cent of the company's revenue last year, 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."

Corteva technologies could also reduce the manpower required.

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

Corteva shares closed at US$27.75 on Tuesday, above its listing price of US$26.50.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2019, with the headline 'US firm says its high-tech farming methods could benefit Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe