Robb Fraley - Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
Monsanto Company (MON) Citi Basic Materials Conference December 4, 2013 3:10 PM ET
Let me get started and thanks. P.J., it's always a pleasure to be here and you have got a lot of exciting things going on in the meeting and it's great to be part of it. I am going to jump right into the technology story on Monsanto and that's basically geared on how we increase yield and productivity and what I want to emphasize today is a lot of the growth platforms, some of the new technologies, some of the new global opportunities we see for growth and basically point that all of the innovations that I think are going to drive our lead and as a technology company and with more commercial product to our pipeline, so as always from an R&D perspective I am going to be forward-looking and you all know what that mean.
Let me jump right into a key premise, which I always like to start with, because it's really been the premise of the company from the beginning for our business and I think it's really the premise for most of you as investors or owners and that's the investment case for agriculture.
I think it's important to do this. There has been a lot of questions we've gotten over the last few months on commodity prices and we talked a lot about that today and there has been changes in Brazil plantings and in Chinese import and in ethanol, so I'll talk about all of those in either questions or later on in the presentation, I will talk about what does this $4 corn mean for the industry or not.
I think, I would like to just start with the long-term view, because if you take a look at corn for example, 35 billion bushels of corn produced around the world. Over the period of the last 8 or 10 years, we have added about 900 million bushels per year. As we model going forward, we see that maybe being a bit more conservative in the future in the $500 million to $600 million bushel range, but still a lot of growth.
Importantly, in the past few years most of that has come from [expansion], what we see in the future is a lot of that will come from yield increase. Similarly on the soybean front, you can see the projections and clearly the point here is demand is alive and well for the major corn and soybean crops. As I said, a lot of that yield in the future is going to come from higher productivity and a lot of that will come from the global market. We have seen corn expansion clearly in South America, Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia. Soybean is clearly a technology where 90% of the production is in the U.S.
Let me move forward with a little bit of long-term view on the pipeline, make a couple of quick points there and how we are using technologies to meet this global demand. First point, I just summarize and say, the pipeline is increasing. We have added about 70 new products in the pipeline, cutting across biotech, seed grades, information technology platforms, overall value of our pipeline has actually increased over the last several years. We see it valued at about $25 billion in peak sales going forward, so that's my R&D [bids] that there is a lot more to come.
Second, I would argue that based on the broad set of technologies and products that are competitive advantage both, on breeding side, on the trait side and I think on the information technology side has broadened and we are well-positioned with our pipeline to drive future yield and productivity. The last point is that, at a high level, most of the advances that have fueled the growth of the company have been basically advances in biology whether it’s the use of markers and sequencing to drive breeding and productivity or biotechnology traits that has driven performance.
What we are seeing now is the other wave of innovations from information technology and data management and we've moved aggressively in this space and I think the sweet spot is really being there we see the advances in biology and information technology coming together on the farm.
I always like to start especially this time of the year with what's going on with yield, so just to put it all in perspective, at this point in time almost all the corn and soybean in U.S. has been harvested. At our November Investor Day, we talked about where yields were. We had about 40% of the data in. Now we've got about 80% of the data in and I'll do a little bit of updating. What you see here is, in the kind of the orange bar is, our overall yield corn performance, and all of those other bars will be the history of the last several years.
First thing you notice is this is probably the best all-time yields we have seen for our DEKALB product. It's also going to be a record year I think for the U.S. corn industry. The other important thing is, when you compare the orange bar to the yellow bar, we have measured now our yield advantage over the competitive corn hybrids to be about eight bushels, so that's an uptick from where we were in the November and that reflects the fact that as harvest is completed, our high performance in that Northern cornbelt has bought our yield advantage up and so that's exciting news.
I think the importance from a grower perspective is, we about being in a band of about a 7 to 10-bushel yield advantage over the last 10 years, so last year in an all time drought in whether impacted year. We had a yield advantage. This year, basically when everybody had strong performance, we still enjoyed a yield advantage and it's that consistency of yield performance that has largely defined our brands and our pricing advantage in the marketplace and of course that performance is associated with volume growth and share gains for the DEKALB brand and I'll talk a little bit more in a minute, but it is still a bit early for us, but at this stage the corn order book looks very strong, reflective of this type of our performance.
Just briefly, I know there's a lot of focus on the U.S., particularly at this time of year, so I would just like to highlight that we run a global breeding program, and to achieve that 35 billion bushels of corn that's produced every year requires input from corn production in many, many world areas and Sam Eathington in the back here, runs our global breeding program. I'll ask Sam to stand up for a second. He is in charge of all of our corn, soybean and cotton breeding and it's great to have him here.
Every year, we put out breeding trials around the world. I always like to drop a little factoid, but if you take all of our breeding trials, all those rows of crops and you staff (Inaudible) and they go around New York more than twice, so it's a giant breeding engine and we didn't screen the varieties in hybrids from that we then used to at the launch in the global marketplace and so we are driving the U.S. market, Latin America, Central America and increasingly strong positions in Europe, Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine and in obviously Brazil and Argentina, strong positions where we have a similar 7 to 10 bushel yield advantage.
In China, we will continue our progress in our joint venture with Sinochem, so we are in a very strong position to leverage the global growth in corn to meet the seed food and fuel the opportunities.
On the other soybean front, also been a very strong year. You can see the dark green bar, that's the performance of our Roundup Ready 2 Yield genetic versus the light green bar which is competitive genetic. Similar story to corn, overall yields were the highest we've seen in a long time and our yield differential is about four bushels in soybean and that reflects I think the fairly established strong performance of the Roundup Ready 2 Yield platform. As you know, that's been a mainstay of our transition from Roundup Ready 1 to the Roundup Ready 2 Yield.
We have the moved that through our won Asgrow germplasm as well as licensed that to most of the other soybean players and as maybe you know we have completed that similar licensing arrangement most recently with DEKALB. From an Asgrow perspective, we grew significant the soybean share and also the order book at this stage is very strong, so we are well positioned in the Americas for a soybean growth.
Let me talk a little bit about how that performance leadership in the breeding in germplasm translates into an overall commercial opportunity. The first point that I always like to talk about and I'll take a couple of different (Inaudible). I think that our investment in breeding and the annual upgrade that that gives us in our germplasm performance, and the ability to replace about 20% of our corn and soybean portfolio products every year with a higher yielding set of products gives us that the that margin lift, so don't Sam's team is charged with introducing commercially about 200 new corn hybrids that populate that global corn map for us and the lets us enjoy that 5% to 10% price lift across our overall our portfolio and that has been a key driver for the business in all the world areas.
That kind of leads directly into the right-hand side, which is how does that model work in today's pricing environment, because you can see the corn commodity prices, I think if you look on your phone today and you look at what the price projection is for December 14 corn, $4.65, so that's the pricing environment that we are looking into for the crop that will get [printed] the screen and I will just say we feel very, very comfortable about the a performance of our product based on the order book and I think it's important to understand that as we set the pricing for our seed products, we've always price to abandon [corn] $4 to $6 ban. We haven't tried to push the prices at the high point in that cycle, and at the current prices we see no difficulty. The performance has been strong, the order book is strong and in many ways as we were talking in the one-on-ones this morning and this afternoon, as prices come down it magnifies the importance for the grower of yield, so we are seeing these have low prices low yield and beast position is having strong yields.
As the growers making no stack of trade-off decisions, the last thing they give up on is the opportunity for a high-yielding crop, so we are very comfortable with the performance band we are in and if there is any other questions, we can deal with that maybe in the Q&A.
A couple of areas I just wanted to highlight for a particular market expansion opportunity, one relates to a northern corn and it's directly an outcome of quality, we have seen that band for corn production move northward around the world. Corn growing opportunities now in Dakotas, in Canada and in Ukraine and the Soviet Union, so we have targeted specific breeding programs and locations for corn production above the 49th parallel around the world. It also fits in very well with our business strength. They have very, very strong genetic to form in Dakota, Minnesota geographies and those are directly a transportable into Ukraine, Soviet Union.
What's going on economically here, if you look back and I think the Dakotas is a great example. If you go to South Dakota and North Dakota and look back 20 years ago, they didn't grow corn, it was all wheat. The corn yields and the benefit of the traits have increased so dramatically that the economics drive corn substitution in those markets, and so farmers make more money planning corn than they do barley or wheat or some of the other alternatives.
Last year was kind of an important pivot point. It was the first time in North and South Dakota, where actually the number of corn acres exceeded the number of wheat acres. That same phenomena is going to happen in Canada and across the Ukraine and Soviet Union, where the economics drive growing corn as their source of seed, fuel and food and their ability to shift will drive the opportunity, so we are investing heavily in new breeding locations, building seed production and manufacturing plants in the Ukraine and we see that opportunity as a significant the acreage and growth driver for the company.
Just kind of walking around the world in corn in terms of technology upgrades and advancement, I'll start here and in the U.S. it's the portfolio upgrade that I have talked about. It's driving the full penetration of the SmartStax and DroughtGard launching the first the FieldScripts and in position ourselves for the replacement products to SmartStax, which will enter the marketplace at the end of the decade and continue to drive that [family].
In Brazil, they are moving quickly to hybrid corn. We have seen trait adoption. They are transitioning largely now to the double-stack corn, so we penetrated this year about half the market. We have an opportunity there and then we will see the upgrade tripled in South America. They have gone through the double-cycle. They are moving to triples and we are seeing margin expansion and opportunity there, and in other parts of the world, we are getting our regulatory approvals for the other biotech crops.
Again, important part when you look about our growth engine, it's the upgrades in germplasm, it's the acreage growth and then the tremendous margin leverage as we step up to technology adaption with higher profit margin, multiple trait component packages from the corn front.
Looking at it from a soybean perspective, you can see the planted acres. It's the Americas story and opportunity, and in many ways the next decade or so, we will see a tremendous amount of growth within the company. We have kind of look at the next 10 years, the decade of the being because we are seeing the opportunity in the U.S. to complete the transition to Roundup Ready 2 Yield, the of the launch of the Roundup Ready expands the dicamba based product and in South America with the launch of Intacta this year in Brazil and the follow-up in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, we see significant expansion in margin growth opportunities and we will see future ways with next generation Intacta will involve the multiple bug control and herbicide tolerance trait, so we are only about 20% of the way through the margin opportunity that soybean represents for us as a company.
As I indicated the driver for this is the Intacta products. Intacta was just launched this year, so just to make sure we are on the same page, Intacta is the combined double-trait of the Roundup Ready 2 Yield product that's been so successful here in the U.S., plus the addition of a caterpillar trait to help farmers protect their soybeans from caterpillar insect.
The light green bar shows the launch we have had this year in Brazil 3 million acres. I would put that in perspective to $1.5 million acre launch we had in the U.S. the 3 million acre launch is the largest soybean launch we have ever had anywhere in the world and the Brazilian market. The feedback has been very, very strong on the product. We are providing both, the benefit of incremental yield that we see with the Roundup Ready 2 Yield products, plus the reduction of sprays and higher yields as a result of better insect control, so great launch and we are now focused on providing more and more varieties to expand the ability to penetrate the 100 million acre opportunity that's achievable with this technology.
On an incidental note, you might have been getting feedback or hearing about some of the insect outbreaks with the earworm in Brazil. We are seeing a lot of our report on strong performance of Intacta versus the earworm. I think having been with the company for a long time and launch product under conditions where we've had low level insect pressure high level insect pressure. This is a great thing that will clearly differentiate the strong performance of the product and I think that will add to the already high level of enthusiasm for the product in the marketplace.
The last piece I would focus on in-depth and emphasize that Intacta has a long cycle in terms of its acre penetration. Our focus from a research perspective is already on the second and third generation products, so we will be bringing next-generation caterpillar control, multiple genes, modes of action, combined together that will provide even more durable insect protection as well as bringing the Roundup Ready Xtend that [right] into this market, so we've got a built-in set of next-generation multiple bug and weeds control product targeted for the South America opportunity.
Coming back to the U.S. and pending a bit more time on the Roundup Ready Xtend system, we are really excited about the progress here. This was our year of groundbreakers in the U.S. We had trials out with the product. Just, again, the background, this represents the combination now of Roundup Ready 2 Yield with the dicamba resistance trait to combination we call Roundup Ready Xtend, so what this provides is growers the opportunity for that second mode of action to be applied over the top of the crop that helps control either weeds that are resistant to Roundup are just difficult to control broadleaf weeds and I've had an opportunity through growing season, the summer to visit many, many, many sites and I can tell you that the product performs absolutely spectacularly. We have had tremendous feedback from the growers. You can see that big red bar. That's basically feedback from the growers that say this product gives us a much broader spectrum of control and that's what it's all about and it's been very, very positive.
The other announcement that we made in our November Investor Meeting, is that we've had really a nice technical breakthrough on the chemical side of this product and that has been the ability to formulate by dicamba with additives in conditions that dramatically reduce what has been a historical propensity of some of the formulation to volatile.
You can see the big green bar. That's the old first-generation Banville-type formulation. Those were the first type of dicamba product in the marketplace. Today's clarity formulations are clearly much better, but that little green bar on the right contains our XtendiMax, VaporGrip technology that basically reduces the volatility to zero and that's going to be the kind of product that we launch and I will give the growers the comfort that this product to be used effectively and safely. It's also going to be a tremendous economically beneficial product in terms of low-cost weed control, so there is a huge amount of enthusiasm for the product.
As you know, we are in the process of completing the environmental impact statement with the government. We hope we will be in a position to launch this product in 2015. From a breeding program perspective, we have already converted our soybean breeding program developing the stack product and will be in a position to launch a very large product launch that has soybean varieties basically adapted from the Northern U.S. to the South and that's exciting. We are also moving forward internationally with this product. We already have many of the key approvals in South America and in Canada and we are moving aggressively to launch in international markets as well.
Let me just move to a couple of new platforms. I'll talk a little bit about the precision Ag and some of the other areas, and as you know this was our test market year for our own FieldScripts program, which is our a genetic based program where we recommend to growers specific hybrids and create a script in terms of being able to vary the planting density to optimize yield. As you know, we have mapped a lot of the corn fields into 10 meter by 10 meter grid. Look at the yield zone and instead of planning that uniform level of corn across the entire field, we created the algorithms based on the knowledge of the genetic and the topography of the field to vary their population, so the growers have the ability to optimize yields. We've historically seen a 5% yield advantage through that precision agriculture approach. This year on 40,000 acres with the other FieldScript that have all of our high resolution data maps included. We continue to see about a 5% bushel of yield advantage. We will be launching this spring in the United States. We've announced a $10 price per acre for this fee in mapping service and we are excited and as I will talk about a minute I think there is a lot of opportunity in precision ag as we bring together the advances in biology and information technology.
The way I think about it is, these are two separate platforms, so our FieldScript platform is targeted based on the generic knowledge fits our seed footprints and I've already talked about the first FieldScript, which is variable rate population for corn planting. Second scripts will include variable rate nutrition, because once you vary the population of that corn plant in the field, you need to see it differently, you need to manage the disease differently in those become next-generation apps for FieldScripts.
With the acquisition of the Climate Pro just a few weeks ago, we have exciting opportunity to expand that footprint. If you look at the climate.com and the Climate Pro, basically this is an information dashboard for the farmer based on really believable weather modeling in terms of historical weather impacts on yield and the ability to basically step through the growers set the decision and optimize each of that decision through historical data management and real-time weather prediction and so the opportunity for this technology platform is to add value not only to the our own genetics platform with FieldScripts, but to be able to add value to other acres and other crops, so it will be an opportunity to move forward.
Nice, complimentary approach between the two platforms, the precision planting approach that we've used through FieldScripts has been largely weather neutral bringing out whether component on hybrid performance will make it even better and make our hybrid selections better. The historical climate approach has assumed generic genetic, so by bringing specific knowledge on soybean variety and hybrid performance will improve their modeling, but I think it's an exciting first step.
I can tell you we are working really hard on data transfer, working with customers. Since we did our November Investor Day, we've had lots of interest from potential partners in the in the [chain]. Other input providers, grain handlers, equipment companies et cetera, and retailers do we see as the partners to extend and create more value and share their value as we develop the platform.
Let me just close and talk a little bit about our some of our other new platforms based on the biologicals and these for us are really two categories. One, are the microbial based product, so microorganisms that we can use, our DNA testing and our field testing capability to select better microbes, the seed treatments. The other is our technology around BioDirect, where you know that we've made advancements and being able to use the RNAi technology to deliver to plants and pest and use that to provide a temporary biological effect for pest control, weed control than what is very exciting.
These are both, biologically based, they are driven off of our knowledge of gene and genomics, but they allow us to penetrate new markets. These are markets where GMO crops aren't used today where the crops are too small and wouldn't sustain a biotech investment or where a topical application could be a beneficial and so we are excited. That overall biologicals industry market segment is about $2.3 billion. It's growing for a lot of the reasons that you know about in terms of pressure on chemistries are opportunity to create our market penetration with new crop.
Since we first started talking about this, we have made a number of acquisitions of companies involved in the RNAi space as well as in the microbial space and this continues to be an area where we look at for future investment and acquisition or partnering opportunities, but the key here is that these are non-transgenic. They provide non-GMO solutions that's still draw on and leverage our database and genomics and DNA capability, so I think it's a nice compliment to both, our breeding and our biotechnology approaches.
I'll just closing and talk a little bit about the overall R&D program and put a couple of perspectives on here. First of all, we continue to invest heavily in our RD pipeline, but we have stayed within that bracket of about 10% of sales. The panel on the left shows that we are about a $1.5 billion level investments this year, the light green bars are returns from our seeds and traits business from a gross profit, so R&D spend has increased. It's about a 9% CAGR return on that R&D investment from sale and growth perspective has been about double that rate, and I think that's a nice investment.
On the right-hand side, I'd just emphasize, we have got about 70 products in our portfolio. Every year, we go through a deep analysis on our portfolio review looking at the technical risk as well as the market value and we have a number of very significant products that meets our financial hurdle and target 100 million-acre opportunities and those are our great returns I think for the R&D investment.
I am going to wrap up and leave you with three takeaways. First, that our pipeline is in a very strong position, plus the pipeline is the key. It's really the heart and soul of Monsanto as a company and I think with the new R&D platforms, we are expanding that. I think from a competitive perspective, I have shared with you a couple of key blockbusters that we just launched, double that are in the pipeline as well as continuing very, very strong breeding performance and performance in both, our corn and soy germplasm. Then lastly, I think, we are very well positioned to take advantage of the continued advances that are driven by the revolution in biology along with the opportunity to match that to information technology and data management and really be able to understand the precisely the performance of the genetics with exactly the characteristics of a field that are mapped now on 10 grid and some exciting interactions of technologies that I think will be game changing for the industry.
Thanks. With that we'll open up for few questions. Appreciate it.
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
Robb, thank you for the presentation. You I mentioned that you gained markets in soybeans. Can you quantify how much you gained and then can you talk about corn share?
Yes. What I shared with you, the yield performance which is very strong. We gained both, value and share in the corn in 2000 value share in soybeans. We have kind of moved away from given individual share numbers, but volume growth has been good and order book strong. I think we are positioned on the trend lines that we talked about in terms of growing share one or two points a year and a lot of is coming from the germplasm upgrades in the next.
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
Just to clarify, gained share in both, corn…
Yes. Gained sharing with the DEKALB brand and with the [brand].
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
Secondly, Pioneer is working with Deer, their precision planting or precision farming product and I think you had a deal with Deer on that, so where do you stand with Deer and what are you doing with other equipment companies like an…
Yes. We announced the Climate Corp deal a few weeks ago. We have had lots of dialogues. I mean, I view this position it I think very straightforwardly at the Investor Meeting, we want to pursue an open architecture model just like we have done with seeds and traits, so just to refresh all of you, we license our traits and genetics the 200 companies around the world, including competitors like DuPont or partners like Agrium or some of the other retailers that same approach is what we would see taking with the information channel.
Everybody has a slightly different view of what precision ag means and what part of that picture they can play in. For an equipment company, they would like to know the temperature of the engine and when is the need to next oil change and how the combine and the tractor need to come together precisely to minimize the traffic over the field. That's one view of precision ag. Other companies are all looking at how do we variably five fertilizer, our unique angle in this has been the knowledge of the genetics. There is no one who knows any better how that next wave of new hybrids is going to perform under different field conditions and how to place and position and feed their crop, so that's a unique crop.
I think with the Climate Corp acquisition, and I have talked to a lot companies. I don't know anybody who has taken either from a historical analysis or from forward look who is any more sophisticated, and since so many of those farmer decisions that are made are really whether based, having that ability to model and project I think is really unique and I think there's opportunities for multiple players to work together to create an integrated system that works effectively that create value and create important opportunities for increasing grower yield and that's our preferred approach just like seeks and traits.
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
You used a -- it sounded like an oxymoron to me. Believable weather modeling, can you delve a little bit deeper into that and where you get the models from and how do you apply them.
Sure, and it's two very, very distinct capabilities that I have talked on, so we talked about the 40 decisions that our farmer make to grow a crop from how do I prepare that field to when do I plant to which field do I plant first, when do I spray it for fungicide, when do I spray with an insecticide, when do I harvest et, cetera. There is about 40 decisions. Each one of those is usually made by a grower, sometimes based on what they wish they would have done last year, what their neighbor is doing, what their agronomic advisor is doing et cetera, et cetera. Each of those decisions could instead be looked at by what's happened in the last 30 years on that field with different crops and weather environment so that that decision can be modeled 100 million times.
Then the forward look could be much more precise in terms of the absolute weather outlook for the next two to three-weeks, so it's taking I relate this to a number of the groups today. I am sure you have all read money bar. You understand the logic there. If each of those 40 decisions is just made a little bit better, the net cumulative of that is much stronger germplasm yield, is much stronger performance and return and that's really the way you have to think about that capability. Right? That help?
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
You talked about the yields against the 7% CAGR on average (Inaudible) and you also mentioned that 20% of portfolio turned over, what I am trying to understand is, how much of that yield advantage is coming from 20% that are new products i.e. that the legacy portfolios sort of diminishing spread versus over time and so the main theme that yield advantage you have to keep bringing the 20% in or there's really no distinction between new and old product.
The average half-life goes off, but the typical corn hybrids in U.S. Brazil, or Argentine is about five years and Sam will tell you that this group, each breeding cycle is averaging about 1.5% to 2% rate of gain, so if you wait five years the new hybrids are out yielding the five-year old hybrid pretty significantly.
The growers are well aware of this. Every farmer has a yield monitor. They are putting out their own thought, so it's an important part of the of the opportunity for driving yield and what we have found is that for us is a very effective way of the pricing our product that work to give growers the choice between the newer materials or to use the current and existing product, so overall that affected driven on average about a 5% to 10% margin lift for the company through those portfolio upgrades, because the new products are priced significantly greater than the older products that they replace, so it provides that lift in the portfolio.
P.J. Juvekar - Citi
As the follow-up question as we think about that yield range of 7%, and as you know the 5% to 10% pricing, price mix every year, should we assume is that a layer correlation that if you are able to use both, the setting -- a linear correlation between the two, so if you are able to report at a blended average yields again close to 10% CAGAR you should or we should assume that you could get closer to 10% price mix, or is it really not as formulary to that?
I would say it's that formulary and particularly when we build our pricing model, we have tried to be conservative, particularly on the commodity price and I addressed that that earlier, but I think if you look back historically, we've gotten a pretty good pricing return on the -- if you take a 10-year look over yields decade ago in corn pricing and where we are at today, I think is a very fair return on our investment and it's a very attractive investment for growers to take the risk on using the new products and it's has been a nice sweet spot for the company. Any the last questions? Are we all set?
Great. Thanks, P.J. I appreciate it.
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