Students for a Better Tomorrow. The Safe Use Ambassador Program
Sustainable crop protection depends on our products being used safely. In region APAC, Bayer is running the Safe Use Ambassador Programme to promote best practice through various partnerships. Among our partners are Agricultural Universities, because we believe that today’s students can play a valuable role as ambassadors for safe use. This next generation of plant scientists, agricultural advisers and regulators is also receptive to ideas and new ways of approaching the question of how the safe use of crop protection products can continue to contribute to feeding a growing population.
Since 2017, our colleagues in APAC have used the Safe Use Ambassador program to train more than 10,000 students from 29 universities in 8 different APAC countries. In turn, these Safe Use Ambassadors have used their new knowledge to train over 30,000 farmers in the safe use of Crop Protection Products. The students are encouraged to submit a short smartphone video of their work with farmers in order to take part in a competition.
On the 13th May, I had the pleasure of welcoming the 2019 winners of the Bayer Safe Use Ambassador Program to Monheim – six students, each from a different Asian country, who had won this year’s competition by impressing us with their commitment and effective communication of safe use to farmers. The chance to spend a week with Bayer is offered both as a reward for the winning students, but also to show them what Bayer does in pursuit of Science for a Better Life. In turn, we can also learn from their experience of working directly and talking openly with Asian smallholders.
Sr. Product Stewardship Management
The students’ visit was accompanied by Vinay Sharma and Xinyou Sun, two Bayer colleagues whose work was essential to the successful running of the programme in APAC. Together, we wanted to show the Safe Use Ambassadors how Bayer works to ensure the safety of our products, so it was fitting that the first stops in the visit to Monheim were the Human and Environmental Safety institutes. A number of scientists kindly explained their work: the meeting with Nina Exeler of the Experimental Unit Bees was of particular interest to the students, as bee health is a common topic in their university studies.
We were also privileged to visit the “Het Groene Hart” ForwardFarm in the Netherlands. This was a great opportunity for the Ambassadors to see how pioneering farmers are able to combine the latest digital technology and innovation with sustainable farming practices. Albert van Kooten shared his extensive knowledge of application equipment and Michel Jansen explained the Phytobac system for the remediation of residual spray liquid. At the De Ruiter Experience Centre down the road, John vander Knapp provided a fascinating – and tasty – introduction to our vegetable breeding programme.
The Safe Use Ambassadors were also warmly received at the Application Technology Centre in Monheim. Walter Mayer explained the breadth of the unit’s activities, including how Bayer works with manufacturers to develop innovative technologies that improve the application of our products.
Further highlights included visits to the Monheim insect-raising facilities, the Substance Library and the Phytobac system. The students particularly appreciated one-to-one lunch dates that allowed them to exchange with various Monheim colleagues, and the opportunity to discuss safe use training with Mohamed Elsharif and Sustainability with Tomas Zaborowski.
Despite this being mainly an educational trip, we were keen to ensure that our guests got a chance to experience some of the highlights of life here in Europe. Some of the students had heard of Cologne Cathedral – but all of them had heard of the “love-locks” on the Hohenzollernbrücke, and several had brought their own locks to worsen the threat of collapse! We arranged a sweet diversion via a visit to the Cologne Chocolate Museum, and we have created six new fans of Germany’s famous “Apfelschorle.”
The students had already demonstrated their zeal in communicating safe use to farmers, and they expressed their commitment to continue doing so in future. Observing my Bayer colleagues during their exchanges with the students, it was clear that they shared the same passion for what they do. Together, we convinced these young people of our commitment to safety and sustainability. I am very grateful to all of the colleagues in Monheim and the Netherlands who kindly supported this initiative.
The students have now returned to their universities to continue their studies and their work as Safe Use Ambassadors. Each of them will report on their time with Bayer to their faculties and fellow undergraduates, hopefully inspiring the next cohort of students to participate in our programme.
We want to build on this momentum and continue to develop the Safe Use Ambassador Program into 2019 and beyond. Our aim: to broaden the program through further partnerships and achieve ever-expanding outreach of the safe use message to farmers.