Data-driven farming – exactly what I want
Hello, my name is Alexander Roth and I’ve been working at Bayer AG since 2018. In my function as Senior Principal Architect, I currently head up the Data-Driven Farming Crop Protection Innovation Lab at the digital hub in Langenfeld together with my colleagues Giuseppe La Tona and Matthias Tempel. In this role I’m responsible for designing architectures in the areas of software engineering, cloud and artificial intelligence (AI). My job is exciting and varied each day, presenting me with new and interesting challenges daily – which is exactly what I want.
Identifying new approaches with SCRUM & Design Thinking
I’ve had the opportunity to occupy widely varying roles in my career so far – such as software engineer, project manager, software architect and also team/group leader – in various domains like the automotive and wholesale sectors. Particularly while working on my doctorate at RWTH Aachen University, however, I realized that although research is exciting and challenging, what drives me and what I wanted to delve into more deeply is finding solutions for specific problems facing customers. I applied to various companies, but it was Bayer that I found most persuading. That’s because my scope of responsibility is greater here at the digital hub and the current digital transformation at Bayer enables me to apply my acquired knowledge in the design of Bayer’s digital products. The most important concept here is agility. Methods such as SCRUM, Kanban, XP and Design Thinking are the success factors we rely on here at the digital hub to embrace agility.
Making farmers’ work easier with specific benefits
Although we experiment a lot here at the digital hub to find the best solution to a problem, our solutions aren’t a gimmick or an end in themselves, but rather provide a specific, measurable benefit to the people who safeguard our food supply. One example is the Digital Yellow Trap we developed together with farmers at the digital hub in Langenfeld for growing canola. The Digital Yellow Trap is part of our solution for pest control in canola cultivation. It enables us to monitor a canola field from afar and observe the current pest infestation. This Internet of Things (IoT) device supports farmers by continuously supplying field data, storing it in the cloud and then analyzing it using Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Implementing intelligent solutions with the best AI
Another key success factor for our solutions is of course AI, because it enables us to implement “intelligence” in our solutions. The creation of complex AI means we work intensively on machine learning research topics such as un-/supervised learning and reinforcement learning, deal with a wide range of frameworks (TensorFlow, PyTorch, etc.) and utilize different external services (AWS SageMaker, Appen, etc.).
Our aim is to develop the best AI on the market, because it is this specification that allows us to develop the products that farmers want to use. Of course, we also make mistakes. And that’s a good thing as long as we don’t make the same mistake twice. After all, that’s the only way we can learn. The solutions we develop here compete directly with those from major U.S. think tanks. Yet we are a pioneer in numerous areas due to our direct contact with farmers, the talented employees at Bayer AG and our contribution to developing creative solutions
Career enjoyment through work-life balance
The employees here at the digital hub have wide-ranging backgrounds. We come from Hungary, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Germany – and we’re all highly motivated. We experience different cultures, learn a few words in other languages and teach our colleagues some German. However, the meetings always take place in English. Although each team member has his own role, anyone can focus on the issues in which he has particular expertise or would like to further evolve, or which he especially enjoys. Everyone gets an opportunity to contribute his ideas and shape possible solutions. And although we all really get “stuck in” to the topics, we make sure everyone has the appropriate work-life balance.
Variety and purpose
At the digital hub, I can learn something new and present myself with new challenges every day. At the same time, I have the feeling that my work is not just enjoyable, but also meaningful.
You can find another example of our digital hub’s work here: https://aws.amazon.com/de/blogs/machine-learning/harvesting-success-using-amazon-sagemaker-to-power-bayers-digital-farming-unit/