Blome Looks Ahead In Biotech, Bees, Big Data

Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience, says today’s farmer wears more hats than ever before.

“I like that because I’m a seed dealer. I have a lot of hats,” he jokes. “The next generation of farmer is CEO, entrepreneur, investor, human resources director, scientist, analyst and more.”

Blome (’85 agronomy, pest management) says the average age of farmers in the U.S. is 58, and in this age of “Big Data” they are keeping up with technological advances and an increasing amount of information. He says possibilities for the future are exciting.

“The data will help us improve crop yield, but we need to help them know what to do with it,” Blome says. “Drones and 3D printers in agriculture will revolutionize our industry.  Just think, if you need a part just print it. Or use your cell phone camera to get a read on a blood test, or tissue analysis on a leaf sample.”

Blome shared his thoughts with a lecture hall full of Iowa State students, farmers and agribusiness people as he offered the 2014 Carl and Marjory Hertz Lecture on Emerging Issues in Agriculture last spring.

Raised on a farm near Hubbard, Iowa, Blome oversees one of the world’s leading crop science companies, with seed, crop protection and non-agricultural pest control products. The company has a workforce of more than 20,000 with a presence in more than 120 countries.

Under his leadership Bayer CropScience opened the Bee Care Center located at Bayer’s North American headquarters in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The $2.4 million center brings together some of the brightest minds in agriculture and apiology to develop comprehensive solutions for bee health. It complements other Bayer Bee Care centers in Clayton, North Carolina and Monheim, Germany.

“Healthy honey bees mean a more substantial and nutritious food supply for us all, and we understand the many complex issues affecting honey bees’ ability to thrive, including disease, parasites such as Varroa mites, genetics and more,” says Blome.

Blome credits his Iowa State adviser, Brent Pearce, with helping him understand agricultural chemicals and genetically modified traits. He also worked as an undergraduate research assistant for former entomology professor Jon Tollefson (’75 PhD entomology) and was a member of Alpha Kappa Lambda.

He looks back on his time at Iowa State with a smile, “I was the post hole digger rating roots for an ISU rootworm scale created by Tollefson,” he says. “Today we battle in the field with biotechnology.”

In recognition of outstanding leadership and service to agriculture Blome was honored with the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Henry A. Wallace Award in 2013.

In addition to his work at Bayer CropScience, Blome has held executive positions at Valent USA Corp, Agriliance LLC, Agtrol International and Griffin LLC. He serves on executive boards and councils for CropLife America, National FFA, North Carolina Agricultural Biotechnology, Iowa State University MBA and the National Wild Turkey Federation.