Female #FoodHeroes

Anke Buchholz

Anke is a Syngenta Fellow working in the Crop Protection Research team at Syngenta in Switzerland.

What do you do?

As a biologist in Crop Protection Research at Syngenta, I work on identifying and developing new insect control solutions in multi-disciplinary project teams. Within this role I am responsible for optimizing and selecting the most promising molecules – or formulations thereof – with the ultimate goal of introducing an innovative insecticide product into the market. Any new crop protection solutions also need to meet our self-defined goals regarding environmental sustainability and agronomic performance.

Why do you love your job?

The field of biology is very diverse, and my job never becomes routine. Syngenta is a great place to satisfy my endless curiosity. My job covers many areas of natural science and frequently confronts me with fascinating new insights into biology. Within our research projects I experience genuine teamwork with committed colleagues all aiming for success. We are in an exciting time where we can address scientific questions either with creativity and conventional biological methods or with newly arising technologies; it is always very exciting to try out new approaches. I also appreciate that our efforts lead to applied uses and tangible value: reliable product performance in the field is the final validation of all our efforts in the laboratory.

How did you get here?

Looking back, it seems quite simple: it is about recognizing your strengths early on and following your passion. But of course, it was not always that easy. Several times I had to make courageous decisions and take opportunities as they arose, such as short-term job assignments.

What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?

Don’t be afraid of natural sciences; it is a great field of work. Build confidence and believe in yourself. If you bring passion to your work, you will be surprised at how far you can go. Today agricultural practices are undergoing radical changes thanks to modern technology and major challenges, like global warming and a very fast-growing global population. We are making progress in better understanding complex ecological relationships thanks to artificial intelligence and other digital technologies. Agriculture is therefore not an old and dusty business but a very modern and increasingly important one.

Bright minds with long-term views are required to explore new technologies in favor of sustainable agriculture. We need more smart young people, and women, to take up these challenges.

How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?

I grew up in a rural region where agriculture played a prominent role. I have many good friends working in, or associated with, agriculture. Agriculture is more than a business; it also has a strong sociocultural element. This results in a responsibility for our society and subsequent generations. Sustainability in agriculture is therefore a very wide-ranging topic and goes beyond the careful use of scarce resources like soil and water.

Most urban people are disconnected from food production. However, it is important that the diverse challenges today’s growers are facing get more attention. They in turn have to accept their responsibility particularly towards nature. It is the purpose of Syngenta to support them in this challenging task.

What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?

The challenges are the same for us as they are for our society in general. Agricultural communities tend to be rather conservative and this can impact the role of women. However, with more qualified women taking on technology-based professions, this will change. In our research department, there is a fairly even distribution of genders amongst the younger generation.


Anke is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.