VIEW FROM THE TOP: GOLDEN HARVEST SEEDS INC.
Name: Edward T. (Rob) Robinson, III
Title: Operating Head of Golden Harvest.
Career: Joined J.C. Robinson Seeds, Inc., in 1978 as a trainee. Worked in many areas within the company. Promoted to current position in March 2006 following Syngenta's acquisition of Golden Harvest.
Education: B.S. in agronomy with emphasis in business from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
AM: What differences are there in working for a family-owned business compared to a multi-national company?
ER: Actually there are quite a few similarities. Syngenta takes an open and collaborative approach with its technology and channel partners and producers, very similar to the approach I am used to in Golden Harvest. Syngenta also has a great concern for hiring and growing great people and provides Golden Harvest the flexibility to react to the market in its own unique way, again similar to the approach Golden Harvest utilized over the years.
There are also obvious differences. One interesting discovery for me has been the mindset change surrounding strategy. Within Golden Harvest we never had the market power to drive significant strategy. Instead we tended to operate at a tactical level. In today's world with Syngenta, an organization that spends $800 million per year in agricultural research, we have the ability to truly shape a market.
Certainly I have seen a change in the time required to manage "up" through the organization. In Golden Harvest, very little time was spent in this activity. Within an $8 billion organization, though, the requirement for reporting, forecasting and educating others on our business takes about 50% of my time. Also, Sarbanes Oxley compliance and other requirements of a publicly held company add complexity. Fortunately I have good managers and they see this as an opportunity to grow their skills, as I do too.
AM: In what phases of the business does Syngenta's branded seed businesses cooperate?
ER: Each company has a distinctive brand position, targeting a selected channel and customer segment. For example, Golden Harvest's target customer segment is more traditional buyers through farmer dealers. If you synthesize the GH position down to its essence we are "Farmer Tested, Farmer Trusted, Farmer Delivered."
Another important area of co-operation between the three seed companies and the crop protection business of Syngenta is our AgriEdge. Syngenta has a unique position, owning strong businesses in seeds and traits, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. AgriEdge is a crop production system that enables growers to make the best choices to improve their productivity from this broad Syngenta portfolio.
In the business areas of product development, supply chain and finance, Syngenta has fully integrated operations providing services and support for the three seed companies. The products and services delivered by these business areas are specific to Golden Harvest and our customers. The same is true for NK Brand and Garst.
AM: In what phases is there complete autonomy?
ER: Each seed brand selects its corn and soybean product offerings and creates its portfolio plans with a high degree of independence. Within financial guidelines and our brand positions, we develop offers and approaches to the market independently, including the organizational structure necessary to best meet the needs of our channel partners and growers.
AM: What new products/services will Golden Harvest be introducing next year?
ER: The biggest news regarding Golden Harvest products is the release of Agrisure RW. We have introductory supplies of Agrisure RW hybrids for planting in 2007 and will have excellent supplies of double, triple and quad stack hybrids with Agrisure RW for 2008 planting. In addition, the new genetics from the Syngenta breeding program are improving dramatically each year. The new releases from Golden Harvest in 2007 are the best set of hybrids I have seen in my 28-year career.
Looking forward, the Syngenta pipeline of traits is impressive. High amylase corn for increased production of ethanol, improved insect resistance and drought tolerance are just a glimpse of the pipeline in corn. Improved oil and aphid resistance are coming in soybeans too.
AM: What role does advertising/PR play in your business?
ER: Advertising and public relations provides another channel to reach customers and enhance brand image. As a company that develops strong relationship with customers, it is important for Golden Harvest to place customers in our ads. Our public relations efforts focus on telling the Golden Harvest story through our customer's successes. Equally important is weaving Agronomy Up Front in to everything we do.
A great example is our Agronomy Up Front University. Hundreds of producers attend the meetings and hundreds more read articles and hear interviews that have a direct, positive impact on their productivity. By helping our customers become more productive they help us reach our goals.