Bayer’s business model will be increasingly dependent on open source, supplier-neutral software platforms for digital agriculture.
Head of the company’s CropSceince division Adrian Percy said the new technology will become an important distribution tool for Bayer’s products and a “giant leap forward” for the sustainability message it hopes will help smooth the transition through its $88 billion merger with seed comany Monsanto.
“One example is the precise application of herbicide in field, which can help overcome weed resistance,” Mr Percy said.
“There’s so much technology going on now, it’s mind boggling. It will drive agriculture for decades.”
However, concerns will remain even if Bayer’s systems do not bar access to the full ecosystem of ag products.
They will centre on market dominance of the dwindling pool of crop technology companies will enable them to control the means of accessing crop products.
Mr Percy emphasised his division’s focus on digital products to tackle farming challenges with crowd-sourced data and precise, actionable advice.
Strategic partnerships will be key to the strategy, he said.
“Bayer has always used collaboration, and we want to strengthen that with more strategic partnerships.”
Bayer’s CropScience leader Liam Condon said the digital policies were designed to “take away the fear factor”.
New platforms advising on crop, animal health and other farming systems would not exclude competitors products and production data would be owned by the farmer.
“Grower data belongs to the grower, and they decide if we can use it. If they let us use it, we offer packages to improve their value.”
But will the new era of collaboration come risk the value Bayer’s holds in its proprietary information?
“It’s a question of business philosophy and which one you think you will make the most money with - Apples closed system of the open Android,” Mr Condon said.
“Obviously, you can make money with both systems, but the variability of the ag sector, and the amount and pace of innovation, we don’t think a closed system will be sustainably competitive.
“We think we have to collaborate to ensure our offering is competitive. Then it is a matter of finding the value component.”