Competence areas







December 2016


“As a seed treater today, you need much more technical knowledge”

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Norbert de Baey has been with Bayer for almost 30 years, working in seed treatment. As a Bayer SeedGrowth™ expert, he has advised seed breeding and seed treatment companies all over Germany. In our interview, he talks about the changes in the seed treatment sector, why he never takes vacations in August and September – and the advantages of being a qualified farmer.

Can you describe your role as a Bayer SeedGrowth expert and seed treatment consultant?

Norbert de Baey: “Almost 30 years ago, when I started working for Bayer, I was stationed in Monheim, for about half a year. Soon after, I began working in the field, at first only in North Rhine-Westphalia and, later on, all over Germany. Today, I’m responsible for northern Germany, and a colleague of mine takes care of our customers in the south. Working in the field means that we inspect seed treatment plants, check if the machines are working properly, and give advice on how to optimize the treating process.”

And what are the major crops you deal with?

Norbert de Baey: “Rapeseed has become a major topic for us, but we’re also very active in corn, wheat, and potatoes. As for vegetables, most vegetable seed treaters keep to themselves; they don’t want anyone else looking over their shoulder. Long story short is that I work wherever my expertise is needed.”

How many customers do you have?

Norbert de Baey: “I currently take care of 130 customers, ranging from farmers, to large-scale industrial seed breeding and seed treatment companies. In fact, today there are an increasing number of large-scale operations – and when we are called in as consultants, the customers don’t just want to be given a brochure, they want the best expertise available. And I am proud to say that currently this is something only Bayer SeedGrowth can provide so extensively.”
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Norbert de Baey recalibrating the digital display in the premixing room

What does it look like when you inspect a customer’s facility?

Norbert de Baey: “Well, it’s not unusual that a customer calls me on my cell phone and tells me, for example, that their pump isn’t working. And I can usually get there within an hour to replace the broken pump, so that the customer can continue treating and deliver to their own customers. But we’re also working proactively to avoid failures, doing annual quality checks. For these checks, we issue certificates and a label that is attached to the plant. Operators that offer seed treating as a contract facility set great store in this pre-season service. And during the main season it gets really busy. I try to always be available for my customers in August and September. I would have no peace of mind sunning myself on the beach if I knew that a customer might have nobody to contact when he needs advice.”

Besides a broken pump, what else can go wrong in a seed treating plant?

Norbert de Baey: “Another common case, especially during the high season, is a malfunctioning spraying motor. That’s also something that we can fix very quickly; the same goes for dosing rollers, bucket wheels, or the digital display in the premixing room if it needs recalibrating. When fluids are involved, it can take a little longer, but at the end of the day we can solve these types of problems as well. On the other hand, if there’s something wrong with the PLC plant control system, then I need to call in a special technician. Nevertheless, I would say that I can fix 95% of all problems in today’s seed breeding and seed treatment plants.”

That’s an important point actually. Have the requirements in seed treating changed over the years?

Norbert de Baey: “Absolutely. Seed treating has become a highly technological process, and many plants are now equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, including sensorics and the like. All in all, seed treatment plants have become bigger, more modern – and, as a result, product quality has improved immensely. That’s why you need staff who have additional qualifications and specializations and you also need people who really want to learn all they can about seeds and continually improve their skills. As a seed treater today, you need much more technical knowledge. And yes, that also means that I myself have had to learn a lot of new things during my career.”

You started out as a farmer, correct?

Norbert de Baey: “Yes, that’s right, I’m a qualified farmer – and it has helped me in my work as a seed treatment consultant. As I have a farming background, I can really understand my customers, and they have faith in my judgment – not just when it comes to seed treatment technology. They know that they can also talk to me about their fields and crops, about plowing and fertilizing. I do think that my being a farmer lends me a greater level of trust, compared to someone without a farming history.”

And you pass on your knowledge not only when inspecting plants but also in training courses …

Norbert de Baey: “I hold up to 15 seed treating courses a year. These are courses that all farmers have to take every three years to refresh their knowledge about plant protection products and courses in seed treatment technology. We always try to find interesting plants as a location for these courses so that the participants can see different types of machinery and technology. In mid-2016, for example, we held a Bayer SeedGrowth seed treater training course at one of the most up-to-date seed treating plants in Germany, in the northern Harz foothills near Blankenburg. More than 50 master treaters from all over eastern Germany attended. These courses are always a great opportunity to meet new people. In fact, one of the best things about my job is that I’m always meeting new people.”
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