When James C. Collins, Jr., thinks about farmers’ vacations, he doesn’t expect to see them in Las Vegas, but he doesn’t think they would be too out of place there.
An executive vice president at DuPont, Collins heads up efforts to help farmers increase productivity and eliminate the potential problems that can hurt their efficiency.
“Farmers are the greatest gamblers in the world,” Collins says. “Every year, they expect things to be perfect, but they don’t always turn out that way. Our goal is to try to help them reduce their risk.”
DuPont is at the forefront of technological advances designed to make the agriculture industry more successful. Its blend of products, information and technical acumen has helped farmers learn ways to increase outputs while also producing food that is safer and more organically pure.
One example of DuPont’s efforts can be found in corn outputs. According to Collins, the average yield per acre across the United States is about 180 bushels. In “black soil” states like Iowa and Indiana, that figure can swell to as many as 220 bushels. During last year’s growing competition sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association, growers using DuPont’s P1197 hybrid seed harvested 532 bushels per acre.
“We’re working on hybrid products but also on agronomy to help the grower optimize other inputs, like fertility and even how to plant the crop,” Collins says.
Collins expects DuPont’s efforts to become even more sophisticated and successful with the company’s merger with Dow Chemical. The combined resources of the two corporate giants will spawn greater innovation and a larger collection of products and services designed to help farmers overcome the many variables they face, such as weather and government regulation, to become more successful.
It is a capricious business. According to Collins, the such as three years have produced record corn production that has created a grain surplus, bringing down prices. However, one drought could bring the United States back to the grain deficit we experienced earlier this decade and drive prices up. “Farmers live on the edge,” Collins says.
But they remain committed to providing better and healthier food for consumers. When he spoke in March at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Global Agriculture and Chemicals Conference, Collins described Americans’ growing desire to “understand their food’s story.” That means farmers must not only be more efficient but must also use innovation to make their products more attractive to those purchasing them.
“That desire is definitely out there,” Collins says. “DuPont wants to be more in tune with it.”
This article appeared in the premiere issue of Delaware Innovation Magazine, an overview of the state’s cutting edge industries and the people leading them. See the whole issue here.