Modern Miracles

by Liam Condon, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and President, Crop Science Division

December 18, 2019

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When a technology comes along that unlocks a new way of thinking about an old problem, we marvel at it as a “modern miracle.” Growing up in Ireland, I know that memories of the Great Potato Famine still run deep. Today, Irish farmers know how fungicides have helped ensure that potato late blight remains a distant memory.

Agriculture has come a long way since the nineteenth century, but as farmers you are still dealing with unpredictable weather, evolving pests, natural resource limitations, volatile markets and shifting consumer expectations. What modern day miracles can you expect to come to your aid?

Liam Condon visiting a U.S. farm.

As a European, I have long admired the awesome display of American agriculture each season. And a year such as this, with the historic level of rainfall around planting season as well as the continued moisture challenges at harvest, U.S. farmers’ perseverance and resourcefulness is especially inspiring. As Bayer progresses in our first full year as a combined company, we are proud to play a role in your journey. 

Our goal is to help shape the future of farming by delivering world-class innovation, leading the digital transformation and setting new standards for sustainability. Bayer recently announced new commitments for sustainability and transparency, including reducing the environmental impact of our products by 30 percent by 2030. We aim to achieve this by developing new technologies, scaling down crop protection volumes, and enabling more precise application. This will help to restore and retain biodiversity, combat climate change, and make the most efficient use of natural resources. 

Bayer is investing more than $2.7 billion annually in research to provide a complete portfolio of seeds and traits, crop protection products and digital applications that is unmatched in our industry. It’s about giving you a choice of tools, so you can tailor solutions that address your most urgent needs in each of your fields. 

Which brings me back to the subject of modern miracles. If I had to name one of the most exciting areas of research today, it would be digitization. Satellite imagery, seamless field data collection and detailed analytics are all impressive, but when it comes down to it, the power of digital technology lies in how it harnesses your data to help you make decisions for your farm. You face countless uncertainties every day — that is why Climate FieldView™ platform is designed to help you control the things you can. With one tool, you can store your data, see it in real time, analyze crop performance and optimize inputs. 

FieldView enables users to analyze key data points, such as seed population vs. yield, for clear insights into crop performance.

Much of agriculture’s success is based on the use of crop inputs to improve productivity. Although we will continue to be an input-based industry, we expect to see a shift toward an output-based model in the future — which is especially important in a world of limited natural resources. After all, you aren’t rewarded for what goes into a crop, but what comes out of it. Digital technology like Seed Advisor, a pre-commercial innovation that enables dealers to provide you a hybrid recommendation and optimal seeding rate by field, is only the beginning of a new generation of data-driven analytics that will help you do more with less. 

We are piloting new business approaches leveraging digital tools and science to create customized recommendations tailored to individual fields and customers.

In our ongoing conversations with farmers, we have heard your interest in partnering with us to share risk. Bayer is actively exploring ways to share both the risks and rewards with farmers, using the predictive capabilities made possible by applying our innovative data science to our R&D data combined with field-level farmer data.

We are piloting a program to create customized recommendations that optimize a field’s production potential. If these recommendations are successful in creating higher yield returns, the farmer agrees to share a portion of the incremental value with Bayer. Should the returns be less, the farmer pays less. It’s too early to know how this type of offering will be delivered, but our pilot takes into consideration our understanding that the involvement of your trusted advisor is important to you.

We are also piloting new business approaches leveraging digital tools and science to create customized recommendations tailored to individual fields and customers. It’s early in development, but we believe we will create unique relationships with farmers and your trusted advisors that will enable us to offer you the opportunity to share the risk and value of these recommendations.  

By making his field data easy to access and share, FieldView helps Illinois Farmer Scott Friestad work more efficiently with his dealer.

Combining the best digital technologies with the industry’s leading corn and soybean breeding and biotech as well as crop protection platform is all part of our integrated approach to bring tailored solutions to agriculture. In coming years, we plan to introduce our new short-stature corn hybrids (several feet shorter than conventional hybrids), which makes corn less susceptible to stalk lodging and green snap, sets the stage for much denser corn planting, and allows for greater ease and flexibility of in-season crop access — enabling precision application of inputs when the plant needs them most. These benefits can lead to higher yields and profits. I suppose good things can come in small packages!

The ability to compress millions of data bytes into a meaningful and actionable management decision connects farmers with their land in a way that is both more sophisticated and yet more intimate than what was once thought possible. Over time, digital solutions will only strengthen the bond between grower and farm, which will bring greater benefits to you and to our world.  

If that’s not a modern miracle, I don’t know what is.

About the Author
Liam is the President of the Crop Science division of Bayer and a member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG. He also leads the animal health business unit. Based in Monheim, Germany, Liam drives the vision for Crop Science and leads the business to shape agriculture responsibly, bringing innovation, sustainability and digital transformation to the forefront. He is a member of the Governor’s Panel for Consumer Industries at the World Economic Forum and Chairman of the Board of Directors of CropLife International, the R&D-based agricultural industry association. Liam studied International Marketing & Languages at Dublin City University and the Technological University of Berlin.