The 2019 Chairman’s Award winner was selected in recognition of his many years contributing to the advancement of crop inputs and crop protection technology in Canada and, his personal passion for supporting the health of these industries and the ag retail sector.
The award went to Al Driver, Canadian country division head for Bayer’s Crop Science division in Canada.
“Some of the key milestones in Al’s career include the launch and growth of key brands to Canadian growers,” said Don Kitson, CAAR board chair, when he introduced the Chairman’s Award during the CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet. “He has worked on InterAg wholesale business, InVigor canola, InVigor pod shatter technology and Liberty herbicide, along with crop protection brands such as Puma, Infinity, Velocity m3 and many more.”
Ensuring the availability of beneficial products for Canadian growers and ag retailers has been the focus of Driver’s career since his first job out of university in the late 1980s when he worked as a sales rep for Hoescht AG, one of Bayer’s legacy companies.
Driver says that the industry landscape has changed so much since those early days that it’s virtually “a completely different industry,” but he says the one thing that has not changed is the desire of ag retailers to offer quality products to their customers.
“Retailers were always eager to learn about our products, and that hasn’t changed,” says Driver. “Retailers have always wanted to know what value products could provide to growers, and how supplier companies could work together with retailers to help to train their staff and grow the business at their location.”
Driver credits ag retailers with supporting and implementing many of the positive changes he has seen in the industry over the last 25 years. He notes improved chemical warehousing standards among other safety and quality standards, retailers’ investments toward waste reduction along with their efforts on communication and education for Canadian growers on sustainability.
In the next 25 years, Driver says he is confident retailers will continue to support and drive future innovations in Canadian agriculture, helping their grower customers implement new technologies while also raising the bar for skillsets and capabilities at the retail level.
“In agriculture, we tend to focus on things one year, one season, one crop at a time,” Driver says. “You don’t realize it in the moment, but when you look back over the last 25 years, the whole evolution is staggering. We’ve come such a long way – just look at warehousing and equipment as two great examples. On a professional level, the people within this business have become better businesspeople, better agronomists, better at application and better in their efficiency of delivering product.”
Through every merger and acquisition Driver has been a part of, from Hoescht AG into AgrEvo, to Aventis and finally the new Bayer CropScience Canada following the acquisition of Monsanto, Driver says the companies he has been a part of have been proud to support the retail network in Canada, and he is proud that as a CAAR member, Bayer continues to support the health of the industry.
During the awards ceremony, executive director Mitch Rezansoff took a few moments to express his own acknowledgements for Driver’s work over the years.
“The innovations in canola hybrids that have allowed Canadian canola to expand so much have been directly associated with the work, the effort and the investments of the companies Al has been involved in. They’ve also been very supportive of the ag retail business, and I thank them for that.” said Rezansoff.
Driver was unable to attend the CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet in person, as he was attending the first North American meeting of Bayer’s new cereal and canola business. He asked Don Kitson to read his acceptance remarks on his behalf.
“I have a deep appreciation for the people within CAAR and throughout our retail network,” Kitson said, reading Driver’s words to the banquet audience. “I am surprised and humbled to be recognized with CAAR’s 25th Anniversary Chairman’s Award. I have no idea where the years have gone. I attended the first CAAR Conference with a lot of faces no doubt in the room tonight. It is with regret I cannot be there with you all, but I appreciate the recognition from everyone and look forward to seeing you all in 2020.”
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