With 10 bil­lion peo­ple ex­pected to pop­u­late the planet by 2050, feed­ing all of them is a daunt­ing task. Yara’s dig­i­tal so­lu­tions can help farms be­come more ef­fi­cient.

With 9.8 bil­lion peo­ple ex­pected to pop­u­late the planet by 2050 feed­ing all of them is a daunt­ing task.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - ANRIKE VISSER

Es­pe­cially when you know that un­til now the in­crease of farm­ing out­put mainly stemmed from us­ing ad­di­tional farm­land. That is not pos­si­ble any­more since the best farm­lands are al­ready in use. The only re­main­ing op­tion is to in­crease the pro­duc­tiv­ity of farm­lands. Chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers and pes­ti­cides can only do so much and even de­stroy the soil in the long run. This is why digi­ti­sa­tion is left to save the day.

Mon­i­tor­ing growth across fields, prevent­ing over­lap when spray­ing to the inch and check­ing ni­tro­gen lev­els of a plant are some of the ways tech­nol­ogy as­sists farm­ers. Drones, dig­i­tal mod­el­ling and hand­held read­ers re­spec­tively pro­vide an­swers where pre­vi­ously only ques­tions lin­gered.

One of the com­pa­nies very much aware of the need for and op­por­tu­ni­ties in Dig­i­tal or Pre­ci­sion Farm­ing is Yara In­ter­na­tional ASA. In our pre­vi­ous edi­tion, we showed how Yara is build­ing an au­ton­o­mous ship, so they are no stranger to in­no­va­tive prod­ucts.

The com­pany has been ded­i­cated to a hunger-free world ever since its found­ing in 1905 to com­bat an im­pend­ing famine in Europe. This mis­sion now ex­tends from fer­tilis­ers all the way to data anal­y­sis and au­ton­o­mous ship­ping.

In re­gards to Dig­i­tal Farm­ing, Yara al­ready has sev­eral dig­i­tal so­lu­tions on the mar­ket to help farm­ers in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity. CheckIT is an app us­ing im­ages to iden­tify nutri­tion prob­lems, Yara Water So­lu­tion mea­sures the water pres­sure in a leaf and in the Me­galab™ the nu­tri­ents in the soil and leafs are tested pro­vid­ing on­line re­sults and ad­vice.

What is Yara’s def­i­ni­tion of Dig­i­tal Farm­ing also called Pre­cise Farm­ing? “Dig­i­tal Farm­ing as we see it has the po­ten­tial to rev­o­lu­tionise agri­cul­ture, and bring sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits for farm­ers and the so­ci­ety over­all, as we need new ways to find ways to grow more food more sus­tain­ably. Con­cretely, it means ap­ply­ing new tech­nolo­gies such as data sci­ence, ad­vanced sen­sors in the field and from space, dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels, and au­to­ma­tion on the field. This way more and more farm­ers have ac­cess to bet­ter in­sights to take more op­ti­mal de­ci­sions, drive up yield, re­duce waste, and – par­tic­u­larly in emerg­ing mar­kets such as in Asia – drive up wealth in ru­ral ar­eas. In short – it means ap­ply­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place,” says Mr Ste­fan Fürnsinn, Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent Dig­i­tal Farm­ing at Yara.

Yara has been ac­tive in Dig­i­tal Farm­ing for the last decade says Mr Fürnsinn. “Yara was one of the early movers in pre­ci­sion farm­ing more than

ten years ago, with an ad­vanced of­fer of sen­sor-driven tools and so­lu­tions, like the N-sen­sor, pic­ture tech­nol­ogy that al­lows to di­ag­nose a field’s health with your cell phone cam­era, or our water sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, to op­ti­mise ir­ri­ga­tion and thus save one of the planet’s most scarce re­sources.”

The ac­tiv­i­ties of Yara in the area of Dig­i­tal Farm­ing span a broad range of ac­tiv­i­ties, Mr Fürnsinn con­tin­ues. “We pur­sue a broad agenda. Some ini­tia­tives aim for higher con­nec­tiv­ity of our tools and ser­vices, some for adding new and more ad­vanced sen­sors and ways to col­lect in­for­ma­tion, such as drones. Some are di­rected to op­ti­mis­ing the dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion and knowl­edge flows with farm­ers or food com­pa­nies. In some ar­eas, we in­vest into ad­vanced mod­el­ling and big data, for in­stance, to sim­u­late the op­ti­mal treat­ment of a farm de­pend­ing on the weather.” Yara also builds part­ner­ships with other play­ers and op­ti­mises dig­i­tal com­mer­cial mod­els at the Dig­i­tal Farm­ing depart­ment.

In Novem­ber 2017, Yara ac­quired a ma­jor US-based crop nutri­tion rec­om­men­da­tion plat­form. The plat­form, Adapt-N by Agro­nomic Tech­nol­ogy Corp (ATC), is big in the US corn sec­tor. The ac­qui­si­tion of ATC strength­ens Yara’s po­si­tion in Dig­i­tal Farm­ing and as a crop nutri­tion provider. “ATC will help us im­ple­ment our farmer-cen­tric strat­egy and is an im­por­tant build­ing block in ex­pand­ing our po­si­tion in Dig­i­tal Farm­ing,” said Mr Terje Knut­sen, Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent, Crop Nutri­tion at Yara on their web­site.

“We are im­pressed with the ac­cu­racy and qual­ity of Adapt-N’s rec­om­men­da­tions com­pared to other prod­ucts in the mar­ket, and are ex­cited about the op­por­tu­ni­ties that arise from com­bin­ing the highly com­ple­men­tary dig­i­tal so­lu­tions of the two com­pa­nies,” said Mr Fürnsinn.

ATC is based in both the fi­nan­cial and tech­no­log­i­cal cen­tres of the U.S.; New York City and Sil­i­con Val­ley. Its em­ploy­ees are agron­o­mists, mod­ellers, soft­ware de­vel­op­ers and en­trepreneurs and it boasts decades of re­search ini­ti­ated by Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity. Re­cently, the Adapt-N team re­ceive a USD 1 mil­lion grand prize in the Ni­tro­gen Re­duc­tion Chal­lenge by Tu­lane Uni­ver­sity.

The plan of Yara is to ex­pand the Adapt-N plat­form be­yond United States bound­aries and in­clude other crops as well. “Our team is ex­cited about Yara’s dig­i­tal so­lu­tions and the com­pany’s gen­uine com­mit­ment to help­ing farm­ers im­prove their fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance. Join­ing our ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy and data-driven ca­pa­bil­i­ties with a lead­ing crop nutri­tion com­pany like Yara pro­vides a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity to scale glob­ally, in­no­vate across a wider prod­uct port­fo­lio and crop base, and main­tain fo­cus on the suc­cess and sus­tain­abil­ity of all farm­ers and those who serve them,” said Mr Steve Sibulkin, CEO of ATC on Yara’s web­site.

The goals of Yara’s Dig­i­tal Farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, in gen­eral, are help­ing farm­ers im­prove prof­itabil­ity, qual­ity and yield while sim­pli­fy­ing farm­ing. The ques­tion that lingers is then if Dig­i­tal Farm­ing can solve the food prob­lem for the earth’s bulging pop­u­la­tion. “We are con­vinced that Dig­i­tal Farm­ing can be a key con­trib­u­tor to ex­actly this ob­jec­tive! Cer­tainly, in sync with other ef­forts and in col­lab­o­ra­tion with part­ners across the globe,” states Mr Fürnsinn.

Mr Fürnsinn ex­plains the need to pro­duce much more food, with less re­sources in a more re­spon­si­ble way. “The first ma­jor step-growth in agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion happed more than 100 years ago with the ad­vent of ni­trate based min­eral fer­tiliser, in which – amongst oth­ers. Ac­tu­ally, al­ready then Yara played a piv­otal role. As our chal­lenges grow – de­mand for higher qual­ity food, cli­mate change, water scarcity, pol­lu­tion, re­duc­ing bio­di­ver­sity, sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tion growth, wealth driv­ing higher value nutri­tion, …we need new weapons to even main­tain, let alone im­prove the way we grow food. We be­lieve Dig­i­tal Farm­ing is one key an­swer to these chal­lenges.”

In such case, agri­cul­ture in the fu­ture will be more pro­duc­tive with a con­nected farm in a dy­namic en­vi­ron­ment. “The fu­ture of agri­cul­ture will un­lock yield re­serves that we crit­i­cally need to sus­tain­ably feed a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. This will mean smarter farm­ing, and help­ing mil­lions of farm­ers take op­ti­mised de­ci­sions. We clearly see the fu­ture of the farm more con­nected. Dif­fer­ent de­vices will col­lect in­for­ma­tion and – in a quite au­to­mated way – lead to di­rect op­ti­mised ap­pli­ca­tion: the “in­ter­net of things” on the farm. Fi­nally, we see a highly dy­namic en­vi­ron­ment, with fast de­vel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies, and quite sub­stan­tial changes to the way farm­ing is done. This is also driven by “agile de­vel­op­ment” – high paced tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment that is char­ac­ter­is­tic for Dig­i­tal Farm­ing ap­pli­ca­tions,” ac­cord­ing to Mr Fürnsinn.

“We can’t pre­dict the fu­ture, but what we do know is that it will be an ex­cit­ing fu­ture, with lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties for farm­ers to ex­ploit need ways to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity, while pro­tect­ing the earth’s lim­ited re­sources,” Mr Fürnsinn con­cludes.

PHOTO: YARA ASA/OLE WAL­TER JA­COB­SEN

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