Crops Technology

BASF: Digital farming takes guesswork out of decision making


There’s no doubt about it – farming is going digital. But it can often be confusing as to what digital platforms could help or hinder the decision-making process each growing season.

“One of the key things farmers are telling us is look I have lots of data. I don’t have much insights into what I can do with that data and can you make it easy for us to navigate lots of different data sources?” said Paul Rea, Senior Vice President for BASF Agricultural Products for North America.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Rea at the 2017 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, where he shared some of the latest applications BASF is offering in the digital space.

Earlier this year, BASF acquired ZedX, a company that develops agronomic weather, crop, and pest models that can rapidly translate data into insights for more efficient agricultural production. Rea said this acquisition alone has expanded BASF’s digital capability quite a bit.

“They are a company that really specializes in developing algorithms to bring weather data together and what we have been able to use that for is to holler out to farmers which herbicides they should be using based on the rainfall they expect in the coming 10 days,” Rea said. “It’s really enabled us to help farmers make a better decision based on their local weather conditions.”

BASF also just signed a partnership globally with Proagrica to bring one of the first farm management system interfaces to market. Growers will benefit as they will be able to connect BASF’s digital offer Maglis with different digital farming applications, including their preferred farm management system. Rea said this will make it easier for the farmer to not have to go through siloed information every time they want to make a decision.

“I think it is a whole new sort of agricultural revolution to be perfectly honest,” Rea said. “Just imagine how much better and more accurate decision making can be with more data, with more insights, with more understanding, and to be able to arrive at those decisions really quickly.”

With there being many alternatives for farmers in the digital space at the moment, Rea said BASF has been careful in the design of their products to make sure the user experience is simple and easy. For example, Maglis, the online crop management platform, was tested out with farmers for over 12 months before it was officially launched. Now the finished product is set to launch later this year in Canada.

Going digital has also been complimentary to the BASF line of products. Rea said for years the company has known that Aremzon PRO, a highly flexible postemergence herbicide, can be activated at a quarter of inch of rainfall, while other herbicides can take up to half an inch of rain. This was great insight but BASF didn’t have the weather data to align up with that in the past. Now digital farming has made that possible.

“What that has allowed farmers to do is make the right herbicide selection so when the crop comes up out of the ground, they don’t have weed problems and that avoids them losing yield potentially or having to do a respray,” Rea said. “That’s just a tangible example of how we can take an existing product with weather data we have had for years, put those two things together to make a better decision and to ultimately get a better crop.”

Rea said another benefits to digital platforms is how easy it is for growers to be able to connect with companies and other farmers from across the globe.

“From a farming community point of view, they can reach out to many more people in their local area or far from where they farm and really find what is going on around the world,” Rea said. “I think farmers are really lucky to have all the choices they are able to get information from today and probably the hardest part is deciding who are those three or four sources they can rely on consistently.”

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