Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brazil Seeds & Traits: The Opportunity to Cultivate Stewards

Cultivation and stewardship are two principles that stand at the very core of agriculture, and which will continue to be critical to the long term viability of the tools and technologies available to the industry. As markets grapple with the need for sustainable growth, there is an intensifying urgency to preserve the technologies targeted at advancing the industry.

Brazil stands in the push-pull relationship between the need for accelerated biotechnology trait adoption to provide additional tools to manage important yield-robbing pests, while at the same time, ensuring the implementation of proper stewardship practices. Technology suppliers are increasingly focusing on the opportunity to steward their products and services to provide long term, and sustainable benefits to all stakeholders in the agricultural value chain. The viability of valuable technologies, such as traits, will require engagement across the value chain to actively seek out opportunities to cultivate stewards.

The rate of biotechnology trait technology adoption has occurred faster in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. After biotech corn was first adopted in 2008, it only took growers three years to surpass 75 percent adoption on an acreage basis. Comparably, after the launch of glyphosate tolerant corn in 1996 in the United States, it took nine years to accomplish the same widespread adoption. These rapid advances in the adoption of technologies have created a fundamental step change for companies serving grower needs. Education, implementation, and regulation of stewardship practices are increasingly important as rapid adoption rates are experienced.

Contributing Factors to Rapid Adoption Rates in Brazil

  • Technologies have been proven in other markets by the time they are approved in Brazil
  • Export market approvals tend to be already completed 
  • High land concentration in Brazil
  • Tropical environment increases growers’ need for traits due to higher pest pressures

Solution oriented, multi-stakeholder approaches across the value chain are needed now more than ever to maximize returns on highly valuable trait technologies. Growers, seed companies, processors, and consumers all stand to benefit from the launches of novel traits that improve both the quality and quantity of grain produced. It is imperative that each participant in the value chain understands the benefits these technologies provide.

Benefits of Trait Longevity Across the Value Chain

  • Growers: More consistent efficacious pest management tools, increased production
  • Seed Companies: Reduced portfolio turnover, improved ROI 
  • Processors: Improved grain quality, reduced number of export approvals
  • Consumers & End Markets: Lower prices, higher quality products 

Novel, commercially relevant incentives will be required to enact the necessary stewardship management practices. The opportunity at hand will surely require a multi-faceted approach including a diversity of tactics such as advocacy, adherence to integrated pest management principles and associated solutions, grower focused initiatives, and regulatory oversight. The effective unification of each will be critical to the long-term viability of valuable trait technologies across the agriculture value chain in Brazil, and the world as a whole.

Examples of Tactics Involved in a Multi-Faceted Approach to Cultivate Stewardship

  • Advocacy: Education across the value chain to advance the understanding of the importance of proper resistance management practices
  • Integrated Solutions: Use of traits, chemistry, biological and cultural solutions as well as integrated pest management principles to further improve resistance management tools available to growers
  • Grower Engagement: A grower focus to encourage refuge planting and relevant chemistry applications to promote trait longevity
  • Regulatory Support: Proper & reasonable guidelines established & enforced so as to level-set stewardship practices implemented across the country

Ag technology providers need access to reliable and highly skilled expertise as they work to proficiently develop solutions-oriented, multi-faceted, multi-stakeholder initiatives that advance useful technologies. Across the continents, through the years, and throughout development and commercialization of traits in the seed industry, The Context Network has provided immutable intellect and valuable insights that help ag tech providers effectively maximize the impact of their technologies. With a firm understanding of the science, the markets, and the business acumen required, Context supports those in the seed value chain to make effective decisions that allow cultivation and stewardship to advance locally while sustaining globally.


Carbon Sequestration and Agriculture

I have uttered the words “carbon” or “carbon sequestration” more in the last year than my previous forty-nine. The level of attention that climate change or more specifically Anthropogenic Climate Change has received has dramatically increased in the last few years. The focus on agriculture’s role as part of the solution has increased even more since the Paris Climate Summit last fall as the world tries to figure out “How does Agriculture play a role in the mitigation of Climate Change?” The Context Network has been asked to engage in this interesting question on multiple fronts and even though there is still a lot of debate, the answer is getting clearer.

Let’s talk dirt

As a boy I grew up dirty. What I mean is, at the end of darned near every day, I was well soiled. I remember my mother scrubbing behind my ears, between my toes, and about every other spot dirt could accumulate. We spent hours, days, and weeks outside. If we were playing it was in mud, in the creek near the house, down by the pond, on the river, and if we were working (which was a lot) it was again in the dirt.

We were weeding by hand or hoe, harvesting, or getting ready to start the cycle over again. In agriculture the land, the soil is at the center of everything we do and it’s a big part of how agriculture intersects with climate change.

soil health graphic 1-02This renewed focus on the health of soils is a great thing. I mean, who wants unhealthy soils? The good news is that by working to make soils as healthy and productive as possible, those of us in agriculture can play a positive role in mitigating climate change. If we could increase the organic matter of soils we are sequestering additional carbon, which is generally viewed as a step in the right direction. Now what’s not clear is exactly how we do that considering geography, cultural practices, soil type, cropping patterns and then be able to do that at scale. What are the economic incentives for a farmer or landowner? If agriculture wants to participate in the value created in cap and trade systems, we have to nail the answers to some questions.

How do we quantify and measure what is occurring? How do we assure those who are buying offsets that the carbon being sequestered will  stay there for any period of time?

These are just a few of the important, practical questions the industry is wrestling with today.

SHP_graphic 2
The focus on soil health in sustainability initiatives has never been higher. We have identified a set of practices that are moving us in the right direction. The Soil Health Partnership, an NCGA initiative supported by a multi-stakeholder coalition has made some significant advancements here, and is working very hard to scale, learn, inform, and keep the ball moving through a network of demonstration farms.

The Context Network is working with clients to put dirt to work in mitigating climate change. Stay tuned. More progress is coming.

Let’s talk:

The Context Network Establishes Context Global Development™

Growth – it’s at the core of everything we do in agriculture. Context is no exception, and we continue to grow in the services that we offer as we work to advance agriculture; making it more productive, more efficient and more sustainable around the globe.CGD logo

Recently, The Context Network announced the formation of Context Global Development™ (CGD), a non-profit organization to support program implementation needs of agricultural and social impact development donors worldwide. CGD’s core goal is to maximize the value of agricultural resources in developing countries by harnessing Context’s commercial and development expertise. In doing so, we will catalyze public-private partnerships that result in meaningful and lasting change.

Evolving Services to Meet the Need
Context has worked in recent years to identify and prioritize strategies for catalyzing development in agriculture value chains to improve the lives of smallholder farmers in developing countries. In the course of assisting major donors with grant-making strategies and program design initiatives, Context identified a vital need in the agricultural development sector. In response, CGD was founded to support donor organizations with economically sustainable, market orientated initiatives by leading engagements with private-sector stakeholders.

In-field Commercialization Globally
Working closely with donors, CGD teams seamlessly to embed as avisors, trainers or managers into the core operations of public-private partnerships in commercialization support and business analytics capacities. CGD’s sole focus on agriculture includes:

  • Bringing better data to agriculture
  • Seeding sustainable systems to value chains
  • Incubating product development and promotion in-field
  • Piloting to markets the commercialization of technology
  • Aggregating markets and advocating institutional changes

CGD already has been selected for and has begun work on two significant multi-year grants.

As the lead grantee for one initiative, CGD will focus on sorghum and millet in West Africa’s Sahel region. In another, CGD is a sub-grantee, and will focus on developing a seed system for cassava in Nigeria.

  • “Realizing Sorghum and Millet Agricultural Productivity Gains in the Sahel” is a two-year program based on a $4 million USD grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The initiative aims to realize agricultural productivity gains for smallholder farmers (SHF) growing sorghum and pearl millet in the Sahelian zones of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria.
  • “Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Seed System for Cassava in Nigeria” is funded with $11.6 million USD from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The 4 year project aims to sustainably improve farmers’ access to high quality and affordable cassava planting materials through the development and promotion of commercial models for seed provision.

Both grants have the potential to directly improve the lives of thousands of men, women, and children in key developing regions of Africa.

This represents just the beginning of what we feel will be many more opportunities to drive transformative change for agricultural communities around the world. We’re grateful to be entrusted as an implementation partner to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

For more information contact Mark Nelson  |  607-592-4947  |

The Context Network™ launches new website

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – (November 2, 2015) Across the globe, clients of The Context Network™ now have access to a new website ( The newly launched, integrated and mobile-optimized website provides access to the ready resources and many services that the premier, global agribusiness consulting firm offers to help each client achieve remarkable results and advance agriculture.

Context Partner, Mike Borel said, “We’re pleased to share our website with everyone involved in the agriculture industry. This update is our opportunity to expand the information and resources we provide our clients.”

Borel said the new website helps clients clearly understand the nine distinctive agricultural sectors they serve. “Our website, the information provided and the video help explain how we work, creating customized business solutions across the value chain. As expressed in our new tagline, we are Partners for Advancing Agriculture. We are fully committed to our clients and their efforts to make agriculture better – more productive, more efficient, and more sustainable.”

For more than 20 years, Context has provided strategic management insights and expertise to clients across the globe. Borel added, “Today, with more than 50 percent of our business conducted outside of the U.S., Context’s reputation continues to drive demand for our services. As we support clients’ success, we contribute materially to agriculture and further deliver on society’s growing demands for food, feed, fiber and renewable energy.”

He added, “During the past several years alone Context has experienced dramatic growth as demand for our consulting services has significantly increased. We continue to partner with leading and promising organizations meet our clients’ demands in strategy consulting, management consulting and insights. Through additional exposure on our website, we look forward to meeting new clients and helping them advance agriculture effectively.”

The Context Network is the world’s premier business management and strategy consulting firm providing services to agriculture, biotechnology, and food companies, and to government entities and NGOs. We help each client achieve remarkable results and advance agriculture via customized business solutions. Major areas of expertise include: strategy development, opportunity analysis, R&D assessments, merger and acquisition support, product/portfolio management, regulatory compliance, industry benchmarking, competitive intelligence, and marketing intelligence/research. Context is comprised of a core of professional executive consultants and is complemented by a global network of hundreds of industry and subject matter experts on-site worldwide.

For more information contact: