Yara on fertilizers and farming for a green economy
Terje Knutsen is the EVP of Farming Solutions at Yara, the largest producer of nitrate-based fertilizers. We discuss carbon sequestration, precision agriculture, and green fertilizers.
Yara is the world’s leading producer of nitrate-based fertilizer. Their mission is to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet. In this episode, we explore how exactly they're doing that with Terje Knutsen, Yara's Executive Vice President of Farming Solutions. Today, you will learn what green ammonia and green hydrogen are and how they are produced. We also discuss the many ways that Yara is working with farmers to implement digital tools for precision agriculture as well as help farmers to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their soils, getting paid to do so in the process. We also take a look at Yara's venture capital arm, Yara Growth Ventures and how they are investing in startups.
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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. 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. That was 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 then a long time where gas was 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
Yeah. And when you were answering that you were smiling a bit when talking about the fact that you used to produce green fertilizer under Norsk Hydro. And that's what we're going to focus on today. On the transition that you've had coming back into that and why it's so exciting. But I also understand that your family has their own history with Yara, meaning that you're a second generation employee. And I think between you and your dad, you have 70 years with the company?