Enhanced Solutions for Farmers Thanks to Data Science
My name is Walter Mayer and I have been a member of the Application Technology team at Bayer Crop Science in Monheim since I joined the company in 2015. One of our tasks is to ensure that our customers can apply our crop protection products easily and safely. The local requirements for our products are different in China than they are in Mexico, and in some circumstances, they can even differ between northern and southern Chile, not to mention the differences between a wheat field and a vineyard. We are also conducting technology related trials and provide recommendations on water quantities and selecting spray nozzles, for example. Data and data science are one of the keys to success here and are growing ever more important.
Improving technology, helping farmers
I’m currently involved in an interdisciplinary project with a team of my colleagues looking for ways to use IT-based tools to ensure safer, more efficient, and more targeted application of our products. We’re just as concerned about industrial farms in Brazil as we are about small-scale farmers in Asia.
We are combining our technology with unmanned aerial systems (UAS), also known as drones, in our project on spray applications. They are becoming more popular in Asia, because they make it much easier to apply the spray mixture to rice fields. We are investigating a variety of issues, such as how our products can be applied with UAS, what needs to be taken into consideration, what technology is needed, and how the technology works under different weather conditions. Our colleagues from the Analytics and Pipeline Design teams are collecting data from the applications locally and using it to adjust our recommendations precisely to each farmer’s soil conditions, crop rotation schedule, and weather conditions. This results in greater yields for our customers.
I work closely on our projects with colleagues from a wide variety of areas, particularly Data Science, Field Solutions, and Stewardship (local product support). From a commercial standpoint, Sales and Marketing and Product Supply are also essential partners.
Before I started at Bayer, I studied agriculture in Soest, Germany and completed a master’s degree in agricultural engineering at the University of Hohenheim. Even then I was fascinated by the topics of crop-protection technology and integrated crop protection. In farming, you have to keep the big picture in mind, with information from the field, research, and business expertise. With our work, we have to constantly ask ourselves what can be done with the technology we have that is suitable for the local conditions and what data we need for it.
I initially applied to Bayer out of sheer curiosity. Developments in crop protection have taken off in recent years. I don't know how I could have gained insight into such a wide range of topics if not at a large-scale company like Bayer. Working here is challenging, but also fascinating. We can tie in our technological knowledge with information from active ingredient production and data science. I really appreciate the constant interaction with colleagues around the world and the opportunity to discuss things directly with users. Recently, we were visited by Brazilian farmers and consultants. They gave us an insight into how soy bean cultivation is developing in Brazil, what burning questions occupy farmers, and how we can make improvements by applying digital solutions. Everything we develop here has a purpose. The improvements we are working on for farmers - and ultimately for all of us - can be felt immediately. And that’s what I like about my work.