Editor's note: Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant did not use a German greeting during a dedication of the company’s new Chesterfield facility on Friday. Also the Bayer-Monsanto merger is expected to be completed in early 2018, according to company officials. An earlier online version of this story and the story that appeared in the print edition were incorrect.
CHESTERFIELD • The gleaming new confines of Monsanto’s expanded research and development facilities show that dramatic change is underway in Chesterfield.
Not only is that true for the physical layout of the company's research campus, but soon it may also extend to the ownership at the helm of the agribusiness giant, with Bayer and Monsanto looking to complete their $63.5 billion merger early next year.
Regardless of the future that awaits the company, Monsanto officials emphasized that the Chesterfield facilities would retain their place as a center of innovation for agricultural science — a status they say is only further anchored by the recent completion of the new, 400,000-square-foot research building showcased Friday, and by the pending merger.
“What the deal really means, in my mind, is a continued ramp-up of innovation,” said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, in remarks at a Friday ceremony christening the new building. “This site becomes an R and D engine — even more so than in the last 10 years.”
The building accommodates 250 research labs and represents “by far the biggest milestone” within the company’s $400 million expansion that began in 2013, said company spokeswoman Christi Dixon.
Another phase of the expansion was completed last fall, when 36 greenhouses opened, encompassing an additional 105,000 square feet.
“We’re already thinking about how we move scientists from Bayer into this facility,” said Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, after speaking at Friday’s event.
About 350 employees from Monsanto’s regulatory affairs team have also recently transitioned to the Chesterfield campus, many of whom are now housed in the new building. They had previously been stationed at the company’s Creve Coeur headquarters.
Fraley said “significant progress” was being made in the merger process, as Bayer and Monsanto seek approval from antitrust regulators in dozens of countries. He said more than half of those countries have signed off already, with the U.S. and Europe representing the main exceptions thus far.
If the merger goes through, Fraley said Monsanto’s expanded St. Louis operations would be the headquarters for seeds and traits research and for the combined companies’ operations in North America — which he said remains the largest market for sales.
Monsanto executives said no single area or product line would be emphasized most at the expanded facility, with research being done across the board. Company leaders conveyed excitement, however, about work at the intersection of fields like data science, robotics, and climatology.
Fraley noted the irony that, despite being arguably the oldest industry on the planet, agriculture is “probably the last industry to undergo the transformation and become digitized.” But that’s starting to change, as Monsanto and other companies seek applications for new technology.
“All of that technology is now flooding into agriculture and transforming modern farming,” Fraley said. “We’re leveraging all of those advances right here.”
The new building — which attained LEED Gold certification — was designed by the architecture firm, Jacobs, with Alberici Constructors managing the building process.
Other speakers at Friday's ribbon-cutting event included Gov. Eric Greitens and Jim Carrington, president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, which partners closely with Monsanto.