FoA 418: Bayer's Collaboration With Microsoft | Claudia Roessler | Mark Pendergrast

Headstorm: https://headstorm.com/

AGPILOT: https://headstorm.com/agpilot/

Azure Data Manager for Agriculture (ADMA): https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/products/data-manager-for-agriculture

Ag Powered Services: https://agpoweredservices.com/

"Scaling Sustainability Through Bayer & Microsoft Partnership": https://www.bayer.com/en/agriculture/bayer-and-microsoft-partnership

Today's episode features conversations with Claudia Roessler and Mark Pendergrast. A quick heads up on a couple of things before we dive in: first, both of these interviews were recorded at World Agri-Tech in San Francisco and they were other conversations happening in the media room for part of the time, so I hope you’ll forgive a little bit of background noise. Second, similar to Amie Thesingh’s episode last month, I originally recorded these interviews to be spotlight episodes featuring the work Headstorm does. Just like in Amie’s case I thought this story warranted a full-length episode, so we will focus on the work Microsoft and Bayer are doing together, but I will also include the role Headstorm is playing in all of this as well. Just a heads up on that. 

You heard from both Claudia and Mark as part of our Generative AI episode which was #409, but the focus today is on this initiative started by Microsoft with their Azure Data Manager for Agriculture, or ADMA. We’ll also explore the collaboration with Bayer Cropscience, in particular they’re Ag Powered Services Platform that brings together agronomic data for a variety of applications. 

Because sometimes this data stuff can get a little abstract, I think it’s probably helpful to level-set with some basics. Starting with cloud services. I think most of us intuitively know what a massive leap forward cloud computing has been for technology in general. From software applications to file storage to other sources of data - cloud computing is how we are able to power digitization. The cloud is not new obviously. But what has become clear is that just giving people access to the cloud isn’t enough to really tap into the power of all of this information - it’s just a place to store it. Moving from stored data to actionable data is a very very heavy lift - especially in an industry like agriculture. 

So, Microsoft started creating industry-specific data management platforms. They describe this as “industry-specific data connectors and capabilities to connect farm data from disparate sources.” They’ve been successful with similar efforts in other industries like retail, finance and healthcare, and last year they unveiled Azure Data Manager for Agriculture, a continuation of the work they were doing with FarmBeats, which you might remember from episode 266 with Microsoft’s Ranveer Chandra. 

So when it comes to making data more valuable, the cloud is a massive step forward, now we have another massive step forward in ADMA, and we’re also going to talk about what could be yet another massive step forward Bayer’s Ag Powered Services. Bayer is providing additional data infrastructure that they first developed to use internally, and now are offering to other companies that rely on agronomic data to power their various digital applications. 

The ultimate goal here though is that data no longer becomes the bottleneck to progress. If a buyer, for example, wants to pay a farmer more for certain agronomic practices, all they need is permission to access it through these tools. If a new program to reward farmers for ecosystem services pops up, the process of validating the work farmers already do would become seamless. If an application to reduce the need for fertilizer needs access to soil, weather, irrigation or other data, they don’t need to build it themselves from scratch if they can tap into ADMA and/or Bayer Powered Services. I hope that’s starting to give the idea of where this can lead. 

Right now, data is absolutely a bottleneck to better solutions for farmers. Today we highlight major efforts to reduce or remove this bottleneck and put the power to fully get the most out of farm data into the hands of farmers who can choose to grant permission for companies to use it for their benefit. 

Bayer lists some of the insights available via their platform as the following: 

  • Tracking disease, insects and weed pressure 
  • Estimating heat stress impact 
  • Applying precision inputs 
  • Identifying crop growth and production patterns 
  • Measuring potential yield 
  • Using crop water usage maps 
  • Analysis of rainfall and weather data

But I think what we’ve learned in digital agriculture so far, is that this won’t be a winner take all scenario. There won’t be one application to rule them all and do everything. However, nobody wants thousands of digital tools that are redundant and repetitive and limited in their effectiveness. The only path forward is a pre-competitive layer, and making collaboration and data interoperability seamless. That, I believe, is what we’re starting to see here. 

About the Podcast

Show artwork for Future of Agriculture
Future of Agriculture
Future of Agriculture Podcast

Listen for free

About your host

Profile picture for Tim Hammerich

Tim Hammerich

I share stories about agriculture, agtech, and agribusiness on podcasts and radio.