Bayer’s digital arm, The Climate Corporation, is further expanding its position worldwide. Europe is the newest market and an important growth market for the company’s main product: FieldView. Mike Stern, Head of Climate Corp and Digital Farming at Bayer Crop Science, explains why.
FieldView is a digital platform that allows farmers to gain insight into data generated on their farm. The aim is for the farmer to be able to make better choices based on this. The product is currently being tested in The Netherlands.
On the day it became known that FieldView users can now also upload data from Horsch machines into their account, we spoke to Mike Stern, Head of Climate Corp and Digital Farming at Bayer Crop Science. “The collaboration with Horsch is an example of the goal of FieldView: to collect all data from farm in one place in order to be able to farm better on that basis”.
Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2016, bought the Climate Corp for nearly $ 1 billion in 2013. The Climate Corp was founded in 2009 by former software and data specialists from high-tech companies, including Google. In the beginning, the company mainly focused on weather data.
Now it goes further than that. Launched in 2015, FieldView collects data, for example on yields and fields, from various sources, such as machines. Farmers should be able to make better decisions based on all that data.
According to Stern, the acquisition by Monsanto was a major turning point in the world of precision farming. “Since then, the entire digitisation has taken off. The market has exploded. Billions of dollars are being invested, thousands of start-ups are working on the subject and a lot of innovation is taking place.”
Farmers say: we need a place where everything is brought together in a clear manner. We offer that with FieldView
In addition to the fact that, according to Stern, it is positive that the market is growing so fast and there is a lot of innovation taking place, it is also a market that is highly fragmented. “That is good for innovation, but difficult for the farmer. Farmers are overwhelmed by and confronted with all the offerings in data and precision farming. A lot of data is generated, but the point is that you can practically do something with it. Farmers say: we need a place where everything is brought together in a clear manner. We offer that with FieldView.”
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Bayer sees Climate Corp as an important part of the business. It is not without reason that “digital transformation”, as Bayer calls it, is one of the three pillars in the vision of Bayer Crop Science, the agricultural branch of the company, in addition to innovation and sustainability. “Digitisation is a key element for the future of agriculture,” says Stern.
We have to add value for the farmer. It’s no longer about volume, but about value
With the digital solutions Bayer is setting up new revenue models, whether or not combined with the crop protection products and seeds that Bayer sells. “We have to look at it as a whole: we have to add value for the farmer. It’s no longer about volume, but about value.”
The advantage of digital products is that they can be adapted quickly, in contrast to, for example, crop protection products. “It takes years to develop new crop protection products. The approval can also take years. Feedback on digital products can be processed quickly. Sometimes we try something and that turns out not to work, then the advantage is that software can be adapted quickly.”
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FieldView is used worldwide on about 60 million hectares and is available in 23 countries. North America is the most important market, but according to Stern, usage is growing fast in countries in Latin America and Europe. In Europe, FieldView is used in 12 countries on over 3 million hectares.
“Europe is a growth market for us and we see that growth clearly at the moment. There is a lot of interest among farmers,” says Mike Stern. In the Netherlands, FieldView is not yet commercially in use, but is being tested with 10 farmers. The main focus is on potato cultivation.
“In North America, the focus is mainly on soy and corn. In Europe and in the Netherlands the cultivation is more diverse and potatoes are an important cultivation. With FieldView we try to add value for potato cultivation mainly for the use of crop protection products. Based on data, the farmer can determine more precisely when and where he should spray.”
Stern expects FieldView to enter the market commercially in the Netherlands in about a year.
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Data ownership is an issue when it comes to digitisation. Something that leads to discussion and concern all over the world, Stern acknowledges that. “We don’t do anything with the data without the farmer’s permission. And of course we use the data in accordance with local legislation. But farmers also see that the power of data lies in collecting and combining data. An example: if we want to know what the influence of the weather is on a certain disease in plants, we cannot say that based on data from one plot or one company, but we can on the basis of data from many companies. ”
The CEO of the Climate Corp notes that the corona virus is increasing the willingness to use digital resources. Also among farmers. “Farmers are forced by Covid-19 to communicate digitally with their suppliers, for example. They are discovering that digital resources can offer benefits. A platform like FieldView benefits from this trend.”