What challenges does the seeds market face?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie : The challenges facing the seeds market, like those facing agriculture in general, are many and significant. First and foremost, we have to deal with climate change and other major environmental challenges, such as reducing the use of pesticides and preserving water and soil resources. Food security remains a major issue today. The destabilisation of world markets in times of geopolitical or climatic crisis rapidly puts great strain on societies and populations, with the most vulnerable coming first.
How does this change your day-to-day work ? What changes does the industry need to make ?
Benoît Pétiard : For years, the priority in terms of selection was yield. Other criteria were not neglected, but they remained secondary. This is changing significantly, with the search for varieties that are much more resilient, multi-performing and stable under much greater stress. For the entire industry and for researchers, this requires the use of technologies – genomics in particular – and more complex and systemic variety testing and evaluation capabilities.
In what way are seeds essential for preparing the agriculture of tomorrow? Can we reconcile “climate” expectations with “societal” expectations?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie: Seeds are the first link in the food chain. The innovation and performance they provide enable us to find solutions to all these challenges by making our plants and our agricultural production more resilient.
What role does R&D (Research & Development) play in this transformation?
Benoît Pétiard: R&D is essential. Our need for knowledge and the intensity of selection required to meet these challenges have multiplied in recent years. Access to cutting-edge technologies, which were still confidential 10 or 15 years ago, has increased. Our investments in new research platforms, as is currently the case in Mexico, are strengthening us. For example, some new varieties have been able to stand up to the extreme drought conditions of 2022.
Digital technology is playing an increasingly important role in agriculture. What influence does it have on seeds?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie : In seeds, our investment in digital technology and data science is not new, but it is accelerating, and that’s crucial. Our capacity to collect data has grown exponentially, and digital technologies enable us to process it to optimise selection.
In recent months, MAS Seeds has changed its motto to “Act Together for a Changing Agriculture”. What vision does this embody?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie : This new motto is the heart of our vision, the basis of our MAS Seeds strategy. First and foremost, it’s about acting and working together, collaboratively within the company and with our many partners. Together, we will go further and succeed. Secondly, we really need to change agriculture, and therefore our seeds and the way we produce. We can’t be satisfied with small “changes”. Transforming agriculture is essential if we are to meet these formidable challenges.
In May, Bordeaux Sciences Agro, MAS Seeds and Maïsadour signed a partnership for the agriculture of tomorrow. Why was it important to work with this school?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie : Bordeaux Sciences Agro is the benchmark agronomy engineering school in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, with renowned teachers and scientists in agro-ecology and digital technology. We need employees who are well trained in these key areas, and we are going to develop training courses with the school.
It’s also a breeding ground for new employees. We obviously need science and scientists to innovate and find new sustainable solutions for agriculture. Research programmes involving theses will be launched in the future. This is a strategic partnership for MAS Seeds to build our future.
Interview made internally