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Customer-first culture at BASF

A little over a year ago, BASF acquired many assets from Bayer.  Paul Rea, Senior Vice President of BASF Agriculture Solutions North America tells Brownfield a lot of work and planning went in to executing a swift and seamless transaction and integration so that customers would not be negatively impacted.  

Rea tells Brownfield the relationship with customers remains a priority.

“It’s a must do,” he explained.  “We have what we call a customer-first culture that we are building at BASF where we really make the voice of the customer much louder in our organization because. . .there’s a ton of change happening on the farm and there’s a ton of change happening across the industry.  There’s always that risk when things change a lot that we think we don’t have to change, and this is the perfect time for BASF to change and be ready for what’s around the corner.”

“Farmers face different challenges today; margins are really, really tight, weed resistance isn’t going away.  There are a lot of concerns about trade and how they’ll market their crop in the future.  They also want to improve their productivity, so we think it’s a perfect time for us to be more customer-centric, to listen collaboratively, and to really bring them products and solutions that they need based on what they are telling us.  That’s something we’re really working hard on and it’s paying dividends.”

Sales in the U.S. represent 41% of worldwide revenue for BASF Agriculture Solutions.  Rea tells Brownfield the company has a strong presence now, but for growth aspirations, the United States is very important.

“We are fortunate here in North America with the combined new organization we have a lot of new assets, a lot of existing capabilities that we have built upon and this is a region that readily embraces innovation.”

He said there is also a need here to improve productivity and BASF is well placed to grow here with the products and technologies they have for the future.

Rea acknowledges that it has been a challenging year for farmers in many ways and BASF has been there with them through the year.  Asked about lessons learned in this challenging year, he tells Brownfield there were a few.

“Patience, believing in the capabilities of our teams, listening to our customers more than ever and empathizing with them and their circumstances,” Rea said.   

On a positive note, he believes yields will overall be better than expected back in May.

“That demonstrates the value of innovation and technology and how resilient we’ve made that crop with seed treatments, all manner of different traits and technologies,” Rea explained. “It’s surprising what we can get done these days whether it be floods or droughts.”

Looking down the road, Rea believes hybrid wheat is going to transform the business in a big way.  He believes wheat has been a neglected crop from an innovation point of view.  

“It’s a very important crop globally and I think it has a large role to play in North America,” he said.

Cyndi Young interviewed Paul Rea at BASF offices in RTP, North Carolina:

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