It is a great pleasure for us to be working with Adrian Percy, CTO at UPL for The Top Innovators in Agriculture List. We caught up with him to find out more about his background, how UPL are continuing to innovate and exactly why he wanted to be involved with The Top Innovators.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in agriculture?
I grew up in the suburbs of London and do not have a farming background. My career in agriculture began right out of college when I joined an ag-chem company in France. I have always regarded growers as entrepreneurs and innovators and have a tremendous respect for the role they play to ensure food security. After more than two decades working in ag, I simply couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
Can you introduce yourself and your role at UPL to our readers and potential nominees?
I am the Chief Technology Officer at UPL which is a grand title for saying that I lead our global R&D organization. With more than 750 scientists and technical staff, our aim is to discover and develop new crop inputs that meet the pain points of our grower customers around the world. We also drive UPL’s mission to change the game and make every single food product more sustainable.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing agriculture right now?
I believe that agriculture must play a prominent role in helping to solve environmental issues such as climate change and resource scarcities, especially related to water. We have a responsibility to provide farmers with the tools and proper incentives needed to farm sustainably and provide a safe, nutritious, abundant and affordable supply while also protecting our planet. When you consider the population growth that we are experiencing and all the challenges that farmers face, it is a very challenging balance to strike.
How important do you think innovation is to overcoming this challenge?
Innovation is critical to overcoming today’s agriculture challenges. The FAO estimates more than 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. How will we feed an additional 2-3 billion people in the coming decades with limited land and other resources while under the threat of climate change? It is the one the great challenges of our lifetimes that we must solve as an industry through collaboration and an open innovation approach.
What innovations have you seen during your career become mainstream in agriculture?
There have been many innovations in agriculture over the years, but I am most excited about what is yet to come. The advent of more environmentally friendly pesticides, precision agriculture which will enhance productivity and save precious resources, new plant breeding technologies that will make our crops more resilient and nutritious, and robotics that will eventually replace tough manual jobs in the field.
Why did you agree to be a panelist for The Top Innovators, why is innovation important to you personally?
I have spent my entire career working in the innovation space and it has been both a fascinating and stimulating experience to work with so many smart people who are passionate about making a difference. I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand the impact that innovation can have on the farm, and in some cases, transform lives.
What will you be looking for in the nominations for them to be selected as Top Innovators in Agriculture?
I will be looking for two things: grounded visionaries and problem solvers. There is an expression, “Feet on the ground… head in the clouds,” and I really love innovators who maintain a true vision while being firmly rooted in the reality of delivering results. I will be looking for those who have fully identified and understood a market challenge and that have delivered a solution to address it.
UPL is always working on new projects and developments. Can you share some insights from what’s exciting you right now that is going on at UPL in terms of innovation?
UPL is very focused on sustainability, including supporting farmers in maintaining or improving the health of their top soils and providing them with solutions to issues of water use to name a couple. Just recently, Sustainalytics, a specialist unit of Morningstar and one of the world’s most respected ESG indices, ranked UPL the No. 1 AgChem company for environmental, social and governance risk management1.
Additionally, UPL recently opened the doors to The OpenAgTM Center, a globally facing R&D hub in Research Triangle Park, NC, USA. The center allows UPL to leverage its advanced R&D capabilities in partnership with other innovation-based companies to characterize, develop and commercialize new sustainable agriculture solutions. It’s also a very important step in demonstrating our commitment to our OpenAg Purpose – to create a global agriculture network that feeds sustainable growth for all. If you or someone you know has a disruptive technology and is looking for a path to commercialization, we would love to hear about them!
1 Sustainalytics ESG Risk Rating Summary Report dated Sep 25, 2020
Wow Adrian and the other panelists with your nomination now. It’s a fantastic opportunity to celebrate innovation in your network but also perhaps to just put your idea or business in front of some of the most influential professionals in the sector.