Yara is the world’s leading producer of nitrate-based fertilizer. Most fertilizers are produced using fossil fuels. Fertilizer runoff has also been linked to environmental degradation. At the same time, fertilizer plays a critical role in our food system’s productivity. Over half of the world’s population relies on mineral fertilizer to be fed. Yara’s mission is to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet. In this episode, I sit down with Executive Vice President of Farming Solution Terje Knutsen to explore exactly how they are doing that. We cover green fertilizer, the hydrogen economy, soil carbon sequestration, and precision agriculture.
- 8:30 The role of fertilizer in crop production
- 19:30 Green fertilizer and clean ammonia
- 26:30 Details of Yara’s investment arm, Yara Growth Ventures
- 31:30 The Agoro Carbon Alliance and helping farmers to sequester carbon
- 49:00 AtFarm and other digital solutions for precision agriculture
Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech Podcast Host 3:04
So hello, and welcome to the Nordic FoodTech Podcast. How are you today?
Terje Knutsen, Yara 3:08
I’m very well. Thank you. Happy to be here.
Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech Podcast Host 3:12
Happy to have you here. I’d love to start today’s episode, speaking a little bit about Yara’s origins, meaning that you were born out of a famine in Europe. So can you go through what the early history of the company is and when it got started?
Terje Knutsen, Yara 3:26
Yeah, so we have a long history. The company was established back in 1905. And as you just said, at that time, Europe was on the brink of famine, and there was a desperate need to be able to feed the growing population of Europe. And basically, we were founded by two founders, one businessman, Sam Eyde and a scientist, Kristian Birkeland. And the scientist, Birkeland, he invented how you can extract nitrogen from the air by having forceful energy and extract that and convert that into a nitrogen that is available for the plants in the form of fertilizer. So that was in those days based on hydroelectric power. So we actually started as a fully green fertilizer back in 1905, and actually produced with the use of hydroelectric power, even up to the 90s. But we have had them for a long time when gas has been the key, raw material for being able to have enough energy to extract the nitrogen from air. But from that start in 1905, based on an innovation we have always been very innovation-focused and expanded gradually. Today we are in 60 countries around the world with feet on the ground. We are about 16,000 employees and we are more than 800 agronomists. A lot of our business is to be able to advise farmers to improve productivity, improve quality, and more importantly, to be able to supply the world with sustainable food.
Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech Podcast Host 5:29
But I also understand that your family has their own history with Yara, meaning that you’re second generation. And I think between you and your dad, you have 70 years with the company?