In 2020, leading agtech company KWS announced plans to invest in St. Louis, Missouri. This case study highlights their story, and why Missouri was the perfect location for the company to grow its business in North America.
KWS is one of the world’s leading plant breeding companies. The German company has a tradition of family ownership and has operated independently for more than 160 years. Their high-yield seed and extensive knowledge have made the brand a trusted farmer’s partner for generations. KWS focuses on plant breeding and the production and sale of grains for corn, sugarbeet, cereals, rapeseed, sunflowers, and vegetables.
KWS uses cutting-edge plant breeding methods to increase farmers’ yields and improve resistance to diseases, pests, and abiotic stress. The company is also constantly improving genetic potential through leading biotech research and breeding programs.
The organization is a strong partner throughout the value chain by tailoring its seed according to customers’ needs and requirements, delivering the best quality. It invested more than EUR 200 million in research and development last fiscal year (2020).
The pandemic has made KWS even stronger globally, whether part of the research or breeding teams, providing access to all scientists helping support KWS in St. Louis.
In 2013, KWS was in search of a location for a research center in North America. One of their key requirements was a space that could fulfill plans to develop a full-service laboratory and greenhouse with a geographically central research location. KWS sought to be in the center for innovation, and Missouri provided a prime position to work in cutting-edge business environments. Infrastructure, quality of life, and attracting and retaining top talent were important factors to KWS executives. They wanted to ensure that their research center would provide an opportunity for growth and a successful launching pad for its expansion into North America.
KWS conducted an extensive search across North America. Several states were under consideration. The Missouri team was the only one who travelled to Einbeck, at the heart of Germany, to learn more about KWS and to discuss the advantages of Missouri with the KWS Board.
After carefully evaluating several locations, the KWS executive team selected St. Louis, Missouri, for its research center. KWS identified the Bio Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park as the ideal location, thanks to its unique combination of research facilities, services, and equipment. Given that KWS wanted a partner that could offer laboratory, greenhouse, and office space, BRDG Park has proven to be the perfect fit and location for the company. KWS was very impressed by the natural lighting in the buildings and the quality of equipment at BRDG Park.
The company received extensive support locally and state-wide as they conducted their competitive search for the new location. That support in Missouri continues today – providing further validation that St. Louis is the ideal location for KWS.
Thanks to its large talent pool and world-renowned universities, the state of Missouri has provided KWS with a network of outstanding scientists. St. Louis is home to the highest concentration of plant science PhDs in the world.
KWS engaged with many diversity partners during the recruitment phase, where KWS had the opportunity to interact with the community and identify local talent. The employees helped to cement KWS’ identity and brand in the Greater St. Louis region.
The quality of life in St. Louis is attractive and provides a well-structured environment for KWS employees. With Missouri as a center of innovation, St. Louis delivers the possibility for future growth. KWS can collaborate with colleagues from across 70 countries – sharing research, ideas, and knowledge from St. Louis.
There’s plenty of opportunities to collaborate locally, too. Located in BRDG Park, KWS is part of the 39 North Innovation District. 39 North includes 600 acres surrounding the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG Park, Helix Incubator, Yield Lab, and Bayer. The district aims to connect, create development opportunities, and additional green space to enhance the region’s growth in Agtech and attract and retain companies and top talent.
Quote from Dr Luz Irina A. Calderón Villalobos on advice to others who might be considering a geographical expansion
“St. Louis and specifically the Danforth Plant Science Campus have hosted the KWS Gateway Research Center since 2015. Being in the location has helped the expansion of our research and innovation activities substantially. KWS GRC has undoubtedly benefitted from St. Louis’ corporate and innovation ecosystem.
The city offers the perfect blend of well-established tech enterprises, high-growth companies, and start-ups, all profiting from an expanding St. Louis’ innovative economy. The competitive advantage is provided by connectivity, great infrastructure, human potential, low costs, universities, local corporations, and affordable health systems. We have been able to build connections within the BRDG Park and other members of the Danforth Science Center and strategic partners within the BioSTL and R&D community. Also, the proximity to our breeding stations in Idaho and Minnesota, enabling personnel exchange and scientific support, has been of strategic relevance. As KWS aims to double its size in the next 10 years, we can only imagine our St. Louis location continuing to grow and thriving!”