Female #FoodHeroes

Nina Heard

Nina is the Head of Crop Protection Regulatory Operations for North America, as well as a Syngenta Science and Technology Fellow for Syngenta in the USA.

What do you do?

My favorite current project concerns the digitization of Syngenta product labelling information to directly feed databases and digital applications in the field. Rapid access to compliant and accurate product information – regarding the use parameters, resistance management, stewardship and other label information – by growers in the field and agronomists enables and ensures our products are utilized to their maximum potential in a safe, sustainable way.

My favorite past projects have involved determining human health risk margins from the use of pesticides when utilized according to label directions.

Why do you love your job?

I love my job because I have a wonderful supporting team that works to develop out of the box solutions to the business challenges we face. I also enjoy working with others at the interface of many different areas, such as product safety, regulatory, commercial, product biology and product stewardship. There is always a challenge to be met.

How did you get here?

I began my career by obtaining a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry. Initially I was responsible for the synthesis of novel plant, animal and environmental metabolites to support product registrations. I also was responsible for the synthesis of 14C- radiolabeled test substances to determine metabolic pathways. From there I moved to several other roles including as a human health risk assessor and finally as an operations lead in the U.S. regulatory team.

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

Work in the area of food and farming is very fulfilling, because you can have a direct impact on global issues such as food insecurity, environmental impacts, and finding safe sustainable solutions to real world challenges that face the agricultural community. Food and farming touch us all.

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

We need to increase production with less land. We need to find ways to farm and produce food in non-standard, sustainable ways, and work to create new technologies that support agriculture in regions that are currently thought to be inarable due to drought and other environmental pressures.

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

Agriculture is very much a male-dominated area, but over the years this has changed for the better. We need to encourage more women to work in agricultural fields, as diversity is key. Agriculture is a wide-open field and women have much to contribute in a myriad of ways, both in the field and in the laboratory.

Agriculture is a very rewarding area in which to work. The overall contribution to humankind is very gratifying and similar to – if not exceeding – the contribution from working in the pharmaceutical area.


Nina 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.