Interview with Pierre Flye Sainte Marie and Benoît Pétiard, respectively CEO and Head of R&D at MAS Seeds.
What challenges does the seed market face?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie: The challenges of the seed market, like those of agriculture in general, are today multiple and significant. It is, first of all, to face climate change and other major environmental challenges, such as the reduction of pesticides, the preservation of water and soil resources. The challenge of food security remains major today. A destabilization of world markets in a period of geopolitical or climatic crisis quickly puts societies and populations under great tension, and the most fragile in priority.
How does this change your daily work? What are the transformations that the sector must make?
Benoît Pétiard: For years, the priority in terms of selection has been performance. Other criteria were not neglected, but they remained secondary. This is changing significantly, with the search for much more resilient, multi-performing and stable varieties in much higher stress contexts. This requires the entire sector and researchers to implement technologies – in genomics in particular – and capacities for experimentation and evaluation of more complex and systemic varieties.
How are seeds essential to prepare tomorrow argiculture? Can we reconcile “climatic” expectations and “societal” expectations?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie: Seeds are the first link in the food chain. The innovation and performance they bring allow us to find solutions to face 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 necessary selection intensity to meet these challenges have multiplied in recent years. Access to advanced technologies, still confidential 10 or 15 years ago, has developed. Our investments in new research platforms, as it is currently the case in Mexico, strengthens us. Thus, some new varieties were able to hold their own against the extreme drought conditions in 2022.
Digital technology is becoming increasingly important in agriculture. What is its influence for seeds?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie: In seeds, our investments in digital and Data Sciences is not new, but it is accelerating, and it is crucial. Our ability to collect data has grown exponentially, and digital technologies allow us to process it to optimize selection.
In recent months, MAS Seeds has changed its purpose to "Act Together for a Changing Agriculture". What vision does this embody?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie: This new purpose is the heart of our vision, the basis of our MAS Seeds strategy. It is first of all about acting and working together, in a collaborative way within the company and with our many partners. It is together that we will go further and succeed. Then, it is really about changing agriculture, and therefore our seeds and our way of producing. You can't be satisfied with small evolutions. The transformation of agriculture is essential 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 collaborate with this school?
Pierre Flye Sainte Marie: Bordeaux Science Agro is the agronomy engineering school of reference in New Aquitaine, with teachers and scientists recognized in agroecology and digital technology. We need our employees to be well trained in these key subjects and we are going to develop training with the school.
It is also a breeding ground for recruiting new employees. We obviously need science and scientists to innovate and find new sustainable solutions for agriculture. Research programs with theses will be launched in the future. This partnership is strategic for MAS Seeds to build our future.