Commitment to Ag Innovation: Q&A with DuPont Pioneer’s Nadilia Gomez

Nadilia Gomez, research scientist, DuPont Pioneer
Nadilia Gomez, research scientist, DuPont Pioneer, Field Technology and Innovations Group

Editor’s note: PrecisionAg.com contributor Amy Wu often writes about women in ag technology. Recently, she interviewed DuPont Pioneer’s Nadilia Gomez, research scientist, Field Technology and Innovations Group. Gomez offers insight into the company’s position in the ag technology space, as well as her role in developing digital ag solutions for farmers.

Q: When did you join DuPont Pioneer? What is your educational background?
A: I joined DuPont Pioneer in 2010. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a specialization in Botany from the Universidad Nacional de Panama in the Republic of Panama. I also have a master’s degree in Plant Biological Sciences and a doctorate in Applied Plant Sciences: Plant Breeding and Genetics, both from the University of Minnesota.

Q: How many years of experience do you have in this area?
A: I’ve been involved in the process of creating science-based, computer-assisted decision-support systems and software solutions for agriculture since 2005. I started primarily on the scientific side, developing predictive models. Then, I worked with IT colleagues to make those models available to a broader audience in the form of software solutions. Now, I connect science and software development to generate digital ag solutions to address the critical problems faced in agriculture.

Q: Why did you choose to go into ag and ag tech?
A: When I was in grade school, I asked my dad how he had decided upon his career path. He said he had done so by asking himself two questions: “What is the biggest problem the world faces?” and “What can I do to solve that problem?” That seemed like a reasonable approach. To me, no problem was more important than solving world hunger, and I could use my love of science to solve this problem.

As that eager and slightly naive 8th grader, I thought that if I studied plant sciences I could perhaps come up with a new innovation — a seed that would grow overnight in a soda bottle cap and feed four families the following day. Its roots, stems, leaves — everything in this plant would be edible. I studied plants, their genetics, how they respond to the environment. I even met Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug and … well… I never created this super-plant I dreamed of. Instead, I’m helping solve world hunger through digital agriculture.

Agriculture technology offers a fertile ground for innovation. Multidisciplinary collaborators — including plant geneticists, farmers, agronomists, eco-physiologists, and crop modelers — work together with data scientists and software developers to develop promising new approaches. Together, we are working toward a broad spectrum of solutions in agriculture that include more food, as well as better farming practices, better stewardship of the land and water, and the next big evolutionary step in agriculture.

Q: Why did you join DuPont Pioneer and what are your responsibilities?
A: DuPont Pioneer has a strong focus on farmers and their communities. With a solid trajectory in scientific excellence, talented IT expertise, and an emphasis on multidisciplinary teams, we are addressing critical needs in plant breeding and agriculture.

My responsibilities include understanding the needs of farmers, agronomists, growers, and individuals working in the field in a wide range of activities, from selecting the seeds they will plant, to planting, watering, fertilizing, managing pests and diseases, to harvesting and selling their crop, connecting customer needs with data and analytics solutions, and creating prototypes that demonstrate the power of new technologies to facilitate decision-making in farming operations.

Q: Why is DuPont Pioneer unique in the space it is in? What is its edge?
A: For more than 90 years, Pioneer has worked with growers, bringing new product innovations to market responsibly and rapidly. Our ongoing commitment to our customers has enabled us to provide high-yielding products, effective chemistries and agronomic support for decades.

We are well-positioned to integrate predictive models and knowledge about our products, including the ones we are yet to develop, to create digital ag solutions that take into consideration local growing environments and focus on our customers’ critical needs. Our unique advantage is our customer-focused approach which, combined with extensive knowledge of our genetics and predictive analytics, can help us provide agronomic advice so our customers can be productive on every acre of their operation.

Q: How, in your opinion, does DuPont Pioneer contribute to food transparency, and why is that important?
A: DuPont Pioneer proactively engages in open dialogue. Listening to our customers is critical to the adoption of digital solutions and to the ability to remain relevant in an evolving agribusiness landscape. This approach extends throughout all areas of DuPont Pioneer, including employees, customers, and critics.

Q: What are your short-term and medium goals in your role at DuPont Pioneer?
A: In the short term, I’m developing digital ag solutions that combine sensors, models, and artificial intelligence so that farmers can make decisions through common everyday devices, such as phones and tablets.

Ultimately, my goal is to work closely with the next generation of farmers and proactively engage them in the process of innovation. Their needs remain at the core of what we do each and every day. From plant genetics to IT, we have an opportunity to help solve the most important challenges they face.

Q: What are the next steps for the company?
A: Growers are asking for more tools and services to better manage their operations. To meet this need, we are developing a cloud-based digital platform that connects multiple points in the ag value chain, including data, analytics, people, and businesses.

Q: Why is it an exciting time to be in this space/industry?
A: Technology and innovation are going to change agriculture. In the history of ag, pivotal moments span centuries, from animal domestication to plant hybridization and gene-splicing, to the more recent proliferation of farm machinery equipped with GPS.

The maturity, affordability, and ubiquity of technological advances on the farm, trends in commodity prices, the changing demographics of farmers worldwide, and the competitive disruptions to conventional agribusiness strategies increase the propensity for the next agricultural revolution. I wouldn’t want to miss it. In fact, I want to shape it.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: I have a wide range of interests, from listening to music and reading to hiking and training dogs. I also enjoy mentoring future generations of community leaders and encouraging them to explore their values, define their purpose, and pursue careers that connect them with challenging societal problems. My husband and I restore and build wood furniture together, and I also like to garden and play with my 9-year old daughter.

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