Innovation Feb. 13, 2020

Seeing Clear to the Horizon: Advancing Climate LLC’s Industry-Leading Digital Ag R&D Pipeline

Follow Sam on Twitter: @SamEathington

For some of our farmer customers, including my brothers on our farm in Illinois, seeing clear to the horizon is something that’s literally possible, unless you’re in a Midwestern corn field past the end of July or so. For us at Climate, we look into the distance as we try to see what’s coming next: what will the season look like for our customers? Will they be served in the right way with the things we’re trying to do? What sorts of curveballs will the year throw us and, most importantly, what will we have the opportunity to learn from that?

Today, Climate FieldView™ is deployed or being tested in over 20 countries, with more partnerships and rollouts coming soon in 2020. The FieldView™ platform is being used this year on more acres than ever. The fields we’re supporting total more than 95 million acres in 2019 - that’s a lot of horizons.

Growing our knowledge, advancing our innovation

I’m happy to revisit our digital agriculture pipeline as we announce significant advancements in our science and its future capabilities. Those advancements represent half of the 36 projects we’re tracking in our pipeline, not including those components that have matured in our pipeline past the post-commercial phase.

In August of last year, I highlighted the importance of those teachable moments like the ones we got in the 2019 season, to grow from adversity and come out of it stronger. A set of pipeline advancements that keeps us at the forefront of the digital agriculture revolution helps make us resilient and begin to predict the (what would have been a few years ago) unpredictable.

Here’s a bit more about where we are with some of our project advancements. Seed Advisor, Advanced Seed Prescriptions, and Automated Experimentation workflows are among the projects I’m most excited to see in farmers’ hands in the coming years:

Seed Advisor: new insights from new data in new places generating new models

Back in January 2017, I talked about our research farms and extensive network of testing partners that helps prove out the mathematical models we use to make predictions and recommendations to growers. Seed Advisor, the predictive seed selection and placement technology we’ve been piloting for the last two years, has been built on this historical Bayer Crop Science research and development data.

As we think about how we continue making accurate, sound recommendations for farm operations, we’ve begun the planned shift to training models using field-specific information derived from FieldView. Grower fields have different soil types, organic matter and pH levels, rotation schemes - all environmental conditions that provide us new insights and more resilient models that consistently deliver quality recommendations to give our customers what they need.

Leading the way toward a global digital agriculture platform

And in the vein of different types of data, this year FieldView is on target to support 100 million global paid acres. It’s just a number, but a large number and especially meaningful given how quickly we’ve gotten to this point. On each of those acres, our aim is to help farmers make some of the most critical choices for their fields.

Our Advanced Seed Prescriptions recommendation tool is currently offered as a commercial product as FieldView seed scripts in the U.S. in 2020. Farmers with fields that mirror those in research with proven variable-rate planting results, known as “opportunity acre” fields, will have the opportunity to participate in the 2020 FieldView seed scripts program. A beta launch of Advanced Seed Prescriptions in Brazil and Argentina is on track for 2021, marrying this tool with the encouraging interest in the Climate FieldView Platform that we’ve seen from farmers in South America and Europe.

Thinking of the farmers we’re able to support as we expand our capabilities in countries like Argentina and Brazil is really energizing. In 2019 trials, we received a positive yield response from both variable rate seed scripts as well as increased planting density. Across multiple years of corn trials in Brazil we observed a 3.2 bu/acre yield increase.

Experimentation in the field and in the code

We’ve talked before about the importance of experimentation in partnership, both in terms of how we improve our products across teams and how we support what’s already happening in farm operations around the world.

Testing is as key a part of agriculture as it is a part of developing new software. The best programmers work hard to strain their code past the breaking point in order to learn where its weak points are and to make it more robust. We know farmers are out there, season after season, doing the same thing, driving hard toward better yields, fewer inputs, and better understanding of their fields through experimentation.

I’m extremely happy that we’ll be advancing into the commercial phase the technology to handle not only Automated Experiment Design, but the ability to analyze and draw conclusions from those experiments. For the first time, FieldView will be enabling farmers to manage the complex workflows associated with planning and executing on-farm trials.

Transparency is part of seeing clearly, and conducting operations transparently is the new paradigm in agriculture. Farmers running their own experiments, in their fields, with their management practices, using their equipment represents an evolution in a farmer’s ability to control their operation to determine the value of using a new hybrid, spraying a fungicide, or changing the density of the plants that go into their fields.

Toward the next horizon!

Farmers are a resilient bunch - you have to be resilient, flexible, adaptable, and smart to do this job. It’s important for Climate to enable that resilience by building products that put the right product on the right acre, at the right density, with the right management practices for a farmer’s field, while encouraging testing out new approaches.

About the Author

Sam leads the Science organization at Climate LLC, focusing on research and development in data science, measurement and field research. He brings more than two decades of experience in plant breeding and global agricultural development, contributing to nearly 60 publications and patents related to agricultural technology. Sam holds a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in genetics and plant breeding from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

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