Forty Under 40 Perspectives: Supporting growers’ success through technical services By Lauren Kilpatrick

One of the most exciting aspects of our industry is the constant innovation of new genetics and product forms coming to market. However, this can be a challenge for growers to keep up with the latest new varieties, how they fit into the current market and the resources available to support growers’ success. To meet these challenges, we provide technical information and resources about our products to help arm growers with the knowledge and confidence to adopt new genetics and growing protocols. Growers’ success is the best indicator of ours.

We are a multifaceted group composed of a trial coordinator, who keeps our commercial trials on track; technical scientists, who generate data-driven culture information and marketing messages; and technical leads, who share knowledge with customers, gather information, and help ensure their success. Our team is in a unique position to collaborate with all areas of our business — from the marketing communications, breeders, and product managers to sales, supply chain, and our customers.

MY TECHNICAL SCIENTIST BEGINNINGS

I started as a technical scientist with Syngenta Flowers in 2020 after earning my master’s degree in horticultural science from North Carolina State University. Technical trialing and communication are an integral aspect of our industry. For example, we know beginning with an exceptional unrooted cutting can mean all the difference to our customers. Many of our technical trials focus on working with our farm teams to test new product forms, assess shipping/packing methods, and evaluate cutting quality and rooting speed.

One of my favorite yearly trials is evaluating our potential new product launches to learn about performance and gain technical growing information. The trial starts with three rounds of rooting data to evaluate rooting speed and young plant quality. Next, a greenhouse grow-out tests crop timing, and we collect culture recommendations to create culture guides. In this stage, we grow alongside competitor varieties for comparison and capture photography to illustrate differences and benefits. Finally, we conduct a summer-long outdoor trial to look at garden performance, taking a closer look at flower cycling, heat tolerance and overall performance. Each phase allows us to better understand our genetics, drop the varieties that don’t meet our standards and ensure we launch the highest-quality new varieties.

TECHNICAL LEAD: GROWER SUPPORT

I have recently transitioned to a technical lead role. Technical leads collaborate across all business functions with an emphasis on being customer facing and providing regional grower support. It has been a rewarding experience so far connecting with our customers and learning more about their businesses and needs. I look forward to sharing knowledge, understanding market trends, setting up and evaluating new variety trials, communicating learnings from technical trials, and sharing failures and successes back to my colleagues to help drive improvement. I have a passion for providing customers with solutions and am excited to continue to work alongside this incredibly experienced and diverse team in a new way, using the knowledge and skills cultivated during my scientist role. Rest assured, if we don’t have the answer, then we know someone who will, or we’ll make a trial out of it.

I believe a cornerstone in the horticulture industry is to remain grower focused as we continue to develop new products to meet the needs of the ever-changing market and the challenges that come with it. It is vital to learn, listen and communicate so that we as an industry can remain strong, support one another and deliver high-quality plants to consumers — and keep them coming back for more.

For an enhanced reading experience, view this article in our digital edition by clicking here.

Lauren Kilpatrick

Lauren Kilpatrick is a technical lead for Syngenta Flowers and a member of GPN’s 40 under 40 Class of 2022. She can be reached at lauren.kilpatrick@syngenta.com.