October 19, 2021

Bridging digital divide in agriculture

SEYMOUR, Ill. — The fast-paced and ever-changing world of agriculture technology can be daunting for those considering a move into that realm — some have, some may and some won’t.

BASF has set a goal to bridge the technological and digital gap and help farmers improve their operations by educating them on the options that are available.

Scott Kay, BASF vice president of U.S. crop protection, said company research shows about 20% of farmers who will adopt the latest technologies, 20% who aren’t going to adopt new practices or are a decade away from making the move and 60% that would like to but aren’t sure where to go for assistance.

“BASF is happy to make the tools available to the 20% who are adopting new things, but we want to focus more on the 60% that have the capability. They are anxious to do it, but they need a bit extra help to get there, help meaning make it simple to understand, converting the knowledge that they have into an actual application on the farm,” said Kay at a media event at the Seymour Research Farm.

“That would be our quest. It’s not an easy one. We have over 300,000 farmers. We’ll start to work with them on this idea. We have 15,000 ag retailers that we also want to work with on this and agronomists to start the sharing process. That’s what we’ve committed and we believe by doing that, while farming will remain the biggest job on earth, we’ll hopefully make it a little simpler.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we believe we can accomplish that and collaboration is going to be the No. 1 thing. We want to collaborate for the broader good. That’s why when we launched Operation Weed Eradication the first thing we said was we can’t do this by ourselves. It’s no different here.”

40 Chances

Kay referred to Howard Buffett’s book, “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” published in 2013.

“You only get so many chances and one of the things it reminds me of is we just had some recent survey data come out that said a farmer really plans on doing three new things in a year. That’s adopting 120 new things on a farm over 40 years. At BASF we’re going to focus on those 40 chances,” Kay said.

“We’re going to pick three new ones and see if we can’t bridge the gap between what was a good idea or a good bet versus not a good idea.

“We have the ability at BASF to look at 1,000 things and fail with some of those so that we can bring the top five, top six or top 10 things that we know work. That is what our ability is to help the farmer bridge that gap so that they know they’re making good decisions they know they’re going to be successful with the things they chose to do.”

The initiative is being enabled through BASF’s infrastructure of seven research and development hubs in North America, 4,000 employees and researchers — 3,000 are specific to agriculture — 11 sites dedicated to breeding and seed stations and over 200 regional seed production breeding facilities.

“We invest $1 billion in research and development every year. That’s 40% of all BASF’s research and development investments. Between now and 2030 we’re going to launch 30 new initiatives — a $7.5 billion pipeline,” Kay said.

“We are in constant evaluation of what practices are going to work and which ones won’t. We’re doing that across the board. We’re not a crop protection company anymore. We’re a seed, seed treatment, crop protection and digital tools company. I think that’s the other thing we can do for farmers is bridge technology into what practices they are going to adopt to make it simple.

“I heard the other day that farmers aren’t system integrators. You take four or five different websites with different information about your farm and then try to blend it all together that’s a pretty challenging environment. What BASF is going to try to do is when we talk digital how do we bridge that divide so it makes sense for your farm.”

Tom Doran

Tom Doran

Field Editor