Smartening Up Tomorrow’s Agriculture

By Tobias Menne, Bayer Group
05:27 PM, July 13, 2016

Food security ranks among the pressing challenges of a steadily increasing global population. Yet, there is not enough land left on Earth for further agricultural development. Creating an environment that promotes sustainable agriculture is critical to Bayer in providing enough food for ourselves and also our livestock well into the future. Bayer is contributing to counter these challenges, among other things, with the innovative approach of Digital Farming. This business model is part of Bayer’s contribution to support UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”
and emphasizes our commitment to the UN Global Compact.

The situation is alarming: UN studies predict that the world’s population will grow to more than nine billion by 2050. One consequence is that the demand on global food systems will intensify. Although the world’s population is growing constantly, the available farmland cannot be continually expanded to accommodate it. Therefore, each farmer will have to produce more on the same amount of land. In order to accomplish
this, the use of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and crop protection products must be chosen as precisely as possible to ensure sustainable food production into the future. For Bayer, digital innovation is one key to further increase production through efficiency while using the planet’s resources in an ever more efficient and sustainable way. This will help to enable increased yields while considering the environmental footprint of agriculture at the same time. Rather than add to the complexity, it will make the world of farming a more
predictable place, empowering farmers to do what they do best – now and in the future.

“We need new ideas and have to better cultivate the existing land to produce significantly more food on a limited agricultural area – in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Because our planet is at its ecological limits,” says Liam Condon, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and Head of the Crop Science Division. Digitalization of agriculture Arable land can vary considerably, even within one and the same parcel of land, depending on the topography, type of soil, and the soil-related supply of water and nutrients to the plants – all of which have repercussions for their biomass.

Digital Farming – the next evolution of the digitalization of agriculture – will in the future be able to deliver hyper-local and field-specific information in order to spark quick and intelligent action on the field. Bayer currently offers large and small-scale farmers throughout the world a variety of digital decision support-tools,
such as: the so-called Expert tool, which provides farmers with analysis of the infection process of fungal diseases, the development and migration of pests, and storage-risk based on weather information; weed recognition applications to identify weeds and provide farmers a treatment recommendation; as well as
developing digital farm management applications for smallholders. In the not too distant future, real-time analysis will help farmers identify pests, diseases, and weeds that threaten the farmer’s crops and yield, down to the square meter. Sensors and imaging techniques will zero-in on a problem and allow the farmer to treat it at the source. Field-specific modeling and integration of public and proprietary data will garner superior recommendations that a farmer can rely on.

Plenty of data is already available. The latest satellite technology can deliver detailed maps, weather information, or even measure the biomass of a field to determine yield potential or possible weed problems. On a farm itself, a trail of data is created every season when the grower monitors the farm. The variety of seeds
used, the GPS and product data from the machinery, water use and yield – most of this information is collected and stored to make it comparable over various seasons. The question is: How can this enormous amount of data be prepared in a way that it is of use? “What it comes down to is the correct interpretation of big data:
Advancements in technology allow for software to sift through the myriad of data points, to analyze and combine them, and to set them all into proportion to retrieve a final and personalized recommendation,” says Thomas Schilling, Head of IT, Digital Farming at Bayer. 

How can all the data be made usable? Bayer translates this basic data into practice-relevant and usable decisionmaking tools, which farmers can employ for soil and water management and to more precisely predict the impact of their actions – such as choice of seed variety, application rate of crop protection products,
and harvest timing – making the risk management of the farm a much easier task, along with the chance to
improve profitability in a sustainable way. The individualized recommendations can be transmitted directly to the farmer’s agricultural machinery. As such, geoinformation systems play an important role in sustainable agriculture. Bayer plans to offer its customers further digital services in the future in order to drive forward the digitalization of farming and sustainable agriculture.

 “We want to help farmers to implement their agronomic decisions with unprecedented accuracy, efficiency, and ease. By identifying the perfect timing and quantity of each product application for each field, we are ‘personalizing’ our products for every individual. This support can one day be possible, down to the last square meter of every field. With these tailored treatments – never too much, nor too little – the farmer will in the future be able to take utmost care of the land, making each application in a more sustainable manner,” emphasizes
Mathias Kremer, Head of Crop Strategies & Portfolio Management at Bayer’s Crop Science Division.

About the Authors
Menne, Tobias

Tobias Menne is Global Head Digital Farming at Bayer

Bayer Group

Bayer AG headquarterAbout Bayer

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. The company’s products and services are designed to benefit people and improve their quality of life. At the same time Bayer creates value through innovation, growth and high earning power.

The Group is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to its role as a socially and ethically responsible corporate citizen. Economy, ecology and social responsibility are corporate policy objectives of equal rank. 

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect CSR Manager's editorial policy.
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