Change is the Name of the Game
Ag industry facing the biggest changes since the ’90s
Spend any time in the ag industry and you learn that mergers and acquisitions are the name of the game. Names like American Cyanamid, Novartis and AstraZeneca once dominated the agricultural chemical world. Then came the consolidation of 1999, making them footnotes in today’s landscape of seed, chemical and trait providers.
In 2015 Dow and DuPont set off the biggest wave of consolidation the industry has seen to date. The wave has now encompassed the biggest names in the industry, expanded outside of the chemical, seed and trait business and looks to roll through 2018.
Several key mergers were either completed or initiated in 2017, and here are the highlights.
The big six are well on their way to becoming the big four. From mergers to divestures to acquisitions, tracking brand ownership will be harder than keeping up with company names when the dust settles.
- Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and DuPont Crop Protection
The three companies merged to form Corteva AgriScience. The merger required the divesture of various crop-protection portfolio elements to garner approval from U.S. and foreign regulators. This divesture resulted in FMC Agricultural Solutions buying DuPont’s global chewing-pest insecticide portfolio, its global cereal broadleaf herbicides, and a substantial portion of DuPont’s global crop-protection R&D capabilities, making FMC the fifth-largest crop-protection company.
- Bayer and Monsanto
Seeds and traits initially attracted Bayer to the crop protection giant, but there is no denying that the two businesses match up well. Bayer has already divested a variety of products, including its LibertyLink technology, to fellow German leader BASF who has been mastering the acquisition game through these industry changes. While the deal has yet to finalize, company leadership says that customers will notice few changes initially.
- ChemChina and Syngenta
This deal finalized early in 2017, putting them a little ahead of the game. This has the potential to let the new company take advantage of the potential upheaval in the market as the balance of the mergers shake out.
While not as drastic as crop protection by any means, the technology space isn’t to be left behind in this acquisition climate. It’s no secret that ag technology is entering a new phase with more than $10 billion invested since 2014. The pieces below are clearly in the acquisition category, with established brands cherry picking key technologies.
- AGCO and Precision Planting
AGCO picked up Precision Planting from Monsanto subsidiary The Climate Corporation. While the purchase strengthens AGCO’s position with farmers, it also puts the technology in front of more farmers. Not only will it expand the footprint for this technology, Precision Planting’s 20/20 Seed Sense monitor will retain all connectivity to The Climate Corporation’s Climate FieldView digital ag platform, providing it a long-term boost as well.
- John Deere and Blue River Technology
Late in 2017, John Deere invested $305 million to fully acquire ag technology superstar Blue River Technology. The company has lead the charge on integrating vision and machine learning to take farm-management decisions from the field level to the plant level. If the current field trials prove the technology, this combination could be a juggernaut of farm management for the foreseeable future.
Cooperatives have followed the lead of crop input providers. The top retailers have always looked at consolidation with each other, and forming new organizations is key to solidifying their growth and influence. This isn’t unique to the current merger and acquisition climate, but recently The Asmark Institute created a visual of this sector’s consolidation using the CropLife ranking of the top 100 U.S. ag chemical and fertilizer dealers. This visual addresses the 33 years from 1984 to 2017 and will continue to be updated based on the magazine’s annual Top 100 list.
While industry consolidation isn’t complete, the upheaval it causes can be good for ag marketers. For those going through the changes, there is an opportunity to take a better offering to the customer, whether that is products, people or just a more effective approach to the market.
For start-ups, or those companies that are on the cusp of significant growth, there is an opportunity to play off the stability that comes from a company that isn’t part of the merger and acquisition fray. Mergers and acquisitions can create a sense of confusion in the market, and as a general statement, companies are more internally focused during these times. Smart marketers will highlight the consistency of products, program and personnel over those companies that are going through major change.
Regardless of the side that your business is on, you can move the needle and craft your future in the marketplace.