Digital technology is transforming the future of agriculture
Jun. 12, 2020
By Jens Hartmann, Head of Commercial Operations Asia Pacific, Bayer Crop Science
The unexpected and turbulent COVID-19 has impacted all of us in many ways – and forced us to rethink and change how we live our daily lives. Families, schools, businesses and governments have had to adapt and readjust age-old operations to survive in the “new normal”. To contain the spread of the virus, safe distancing measures and stay-home regulations have been enforced worldwide, in turn, driving most of us to turn to digital tools to enable business continuity and maintain some form of human connection.
Even before the pandemic, most industries have already been touched by digital in some ways, and the age-old tradition of farming has started seeing the introduction of digital tools. With the pandemic exposing the vulnerabilities and bringing to light the urgent need to enhance the resilience of our food systems, in my view, the COVID-19 situation will be a key driver in accelerating digital transformation in ag even more.
Over the last 30 years, I have seen the emergence and rise of technologies which have taken farmers through the revolution of basic farming tools to advanced machinery and technological solutions, enabling them to protect their crops responsibly and effectively. As the industry’s understanding of the challenges faced by farmers develops, our digital tools have also evolved to become more personalised, efficient, accessible and sustainable to better meet farmers’ needs.
We can already see these changes taking place in the marketplace. Our Bayer China team introduced ‘Bayer WeGrow’, a WeChat-based farmer engagement tool to communicate with, educate and train farmers while adhering to safe distancing measures during the COVID-19 lockdown. We have reached over 200,000 farmers to date, and will continue to equip them with agronomical know-how and skills in sustainable practices, which will enable them to boost profitability whilst protecting the environment.
In February this year, we announced our partnership with XAG to bring digital farming technology to smallholder farmers in Southeast Asia and Pakistan. This collaboration will equip smallholders with knowledge around digital farming to grow more with less, and help them to overcome challenges around labor shortage, water use and product stewardship. In Japan and China, both key innovation engines in Asia and our focus markets, our teams have been driving digital farming processes via drone application since 2016.
In these unprecedented times, building smallholders’ resilience in farming is critical to ensure a stable food supply. Enabling farmers to leverage digital tools can increase productivity and efficiency, while addressing issues such as labour shortage and water use, and at the same time adhering to safe distancing measures.
Consequently, now more than ever, it is critical that we stay connected to the farmers. Every day, farmers are required to make decisions that will impact their harvest potential and in turn, their livelihoods. Our Climate FieldView™ digital agriculture platform supports farmers in farm management decisions by bringing increased precision to crop production. Our FarmRise™ digital advisory platform provides agronomic information and advice to smallholder farmers, helping them make informed strategic decisions to ensure a sustainable and resilient food supply chain.
From small farms to large-scale operations, digital technology is transforming agriculture at a rapid pace for the better, to improve farmers’ productivity and ultimately their livelihoods. COVID-19 has disrupted the agriculture industry and our food systems, and impacted smallholder farmers immensely, but I am confident that through collaboration and enabling access to digital technology for farmers, we can help mitigate the impact and keep supply chains functioning well to ensure food security. Together, we can overcome COVID-19 and be better prepared for future crises to come.
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