Nomad Technology Consulting: Digital Technology For Ag

There are Ag Tech Providers Around the World

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Looking beyond borders is helping find technology for agriculture, according to Adrian Percy, formerly with Bayer Crop Science and now the owner of Nomad Technology Consulting. And he is excited to bring new solutions to agriculture.

“One of the things that were apparent to me working at Bayer is that there was so much beyond our borders, a lot of exciting ag tech out of there, a lot of passionate entrepreneurs trying to make a difference and bring new solutions to agriculture,” Percy said. “However, when I left Bayer a few months ago, I dived in and began working with many new technology providers across the globe who are looking to bring new solutions to various areas of ag tech. I desire to help and advise them.”

AgTech Experts At Recent AgTechx Event at Bayer Crop Science’s West Sacramento Research Facility, sponsored by Western Growers Association.

Digitalization is clearly going to be one of those new areas in agriculture, and basically, it’s going to help ag in many ways.

“I think our growers make more informed decisions about how to manage their crop, and so whatever type of crop that will be, whether it comes to time for harvesting and other areas, I think this is all going to be enabled by digital tools,” Percy explained.

The use of drones and high-resolution cameras will be aiding in combating pests.

“Do you take the use of drones with high-resolution visualization cameras? There are companies now that can detect insects that are less than half a millimeter,” Percy said.

“You may be able to detect the arrival of early disease pressure in a field or early insect infestations and perhaps send out another drone to zap those critters and protect fields with minimum use of crop protection chemistry,” Percy continued.

Building trust will help data sharing at some level.

“They may have to share their data to trust in that process, and a lot of companies are working on how they can build that trust with growers,” Percy explained.

Percy said the need to farm sustainably would help farms in the future.

“I think the fundamentals have always been strong. I know we go through periods of difficulty with low margins and commodity prices, for example, which are not strong right now, but the need for the future and the need for sustainable farming is always going to be there.”

Crop Protection: U.S. Food System Very Safe

Crop Protection Products are Highly Regulated

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

There’s no need to worry about crop protection products when you consume food, fruits and vegetables, and all the rest, as the materials are highly regulated.

“Chemicals are all around us. In fact, we are all made of chemicals, so the fear of chemicals is unnecessary. Chemicals can actually be very beneficial,” said Dr. Eliza Dunn, Medical Sciences and Outreach Lead for Bayer Crop Science. “Chemicals make antibiotics and vaccines, and all of that is really important because it’s in public health, and they also protect the food supply.”

And here’s a fact: Pesticides a more heavily regulated that antibiotics that we take and those antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals are highly regulated.

“You have to do lots of testing to get your pharmaceutical in the market. Testing and monitoring pesticides are the same way. Pesticides come up for reevaluation every 15 years, and they look at all of the data that’s involved in that 15 years to make sure there’s nothing new that can be concerning for human health,” Dunn explained.

“These agencies have the best interests of people at heart. I wouldn’t feed my kids something that I thought was worrisome. And I feed my kids fruits, vegetables, and other foods, and I don’t worry about the residues because it’s not going to cause harm,” she said.

Dunn also commented on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List that they release each summer.

“It’s very unfortunate because it winds up causing people to get very worried about their food supply, and you can be absolutely reassured that the food supply in this country is safe and healthy and nutritious,” said Dunn. “We are so lucky to have access to such a fabulous food supply because there are other places in the world that don’t have access to that, and it’s because we have things like crop protection products that make sure that we have an access to that kind of food supply.”

As for the EWG’s statements that certain fruits have higher residues?

“That’s misinformation, unfortunately. They’re not toxic. We know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. If you are worried about residues, you can wash them off. It’s really fear-mongering, and that is irresponsible,” Dunn said.

Fighting Asian Citrus Psyllid On and Off the Farm

Fighting ACP on Farms and Residential Areas Critical

By Hannah Young, Associate Editor

Pests and diseases are as prominent as ever not only for California farmers but in residential areas as well. California Ag Today recently spoke with Rick Westcott, a senior sales rep for Bayer Crop Science, about preventative materials for pests and diseases and the importance of controlling the spread of those diseases, particularly Asian citrus psyllid.

Westcott explained that the advantage of Movento, a powerful insecticide, is that it is systemic, it’s applied early, and it will translocate throughout the entire tree.

“It’s both phloem and xylem movement, so it’ll go down into the roots and then back up so it constantly recirculates within the plant,” Westcott said. “That’s what gives it the longevity of control.”

In citrus trees, Movento typically takes about 65 to 70 days to start working after circulating through the plant which helps with the longevity of the product, Westcott added.

Although Movento is not used specifically for Asian citrus psyllid, it has proved to aid in controlling the pest.

Westcott said Movento is currently being used against citrus red scale and applied during pedal fall along with thrip sprays, which farmers are applying anyway.

“It will take care of your red scale, your early red scale spray, and of course, because it also controls Asian citrus psyllid, it’s a bonus to do that too,” Westcott said. “Then the other thing that they’re doing with the thrip spray as well for katydid control, which is also an issue in citrus at that thrip timing.”

By patrolling and monitoring for ACP, the spread of HLB can also be controlled.

“The key is to keep the ACP at the lowest level possible or zero if that’s possible. [The] fortunate thing for us in the San Joaquin Valley is the fact that we do a lot of spraying for other pests throughout the year that almost everything that we put in the tank happens to also control ACP at the same time,” Westcott explained.

Westcott said that this is the reason we have not seen a huge outbreak of ACP in the San Joaquin Valley, unlike other parts of California.

“The problem isn’t in any commercial grove at this point, but it’s all residential,” Westcott continued. “It’s all concentrated in the residential areas, so there are certain products that you can use an ag that you can’t use there, but most of them, fortunately, you know, they have a label for both residential and agriculture, so they do crossover to stop them there so they don’t get here.”

HLB is still posing a threat in California, but most specifically in the Los Angeles area.

“The total amount of trees currently that are infective with HLB in the counties of LA, Orange and Riverside County is 645. And then if you compare that from a year ago: a year ago, there were only 73 trees that they had infected, and it’s changing every day,” Westcott said.

Bayer Brings Legislators to Farms for Right Reasons

Inaugural Farms Will Replace Pen with the Plow

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
Rob Schrick, Bayer CropScience
Rob Schrick, Bayer Crop Science

Bayer Crop Science is giving legislators the opportunity to trade in dress pants for denim, by providing farms just minutes away from their office. Rob Schrick, Bayer CropScience strategic business lead for North America, is working with growers to have an inaugural farm outside of Washington, D.C., and eventually Sacramento to show lawmakers real farming practices.

“A lot of these folks that are writing laws for us in ag have never been on a farm,” Schrick said. “These are the very people that work every day towards California laws and regulations on farms that they have never seen.”

This will give lawmakers a taste of the work farmers in our state do every day. Although the San Joaquin Valley is the heart of agriculture, the key is a convenience for the government, which is why they are looking to the Sacramento area for their next farm, explained Schrick.

“Let’s get them out there and showcase the growers using technology in an everyday environment,” Schrick said.

Monsanto Seeds Transitioning to Bayer Crop Science

Bayer Seeds Going to BASF

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Sebastian Langbehn is the commercial lead for the Vegetable Division within Monsanto. California Ag Today spoke to him recently, and he is busy.

“We are right now in the process of integrating into Bayer Crop Science, and we’re pleased about the outcome of the whole regulatory process, where Bayer has purchased Monsanto,” Langbehn said. “We finally got the approval slightly more than a month ago, and there will be a clean cut.”

Langbehn said that the vegetable seed division from Bayer will be divested and will be acquired by BASF, and now the company is in the process for integrating the Monsanto vegetable division within Bayer.

“We see this as an amazing tool that will enable us to tap in with an integrated solution to farms so that we don’t restrict ourselves only to provide solutions through genetics, but through the entire portfolio that we will have within Bayer, as the company’s new vegetable division,” Langbehn said.

Farmers Add Emotional Connection to Food

Bayer Reports Consumers Still Trust Farmers

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Adrian Percy, Global Head of Research and Development for Bayer Crop Science, told California Ag Today recently that he believes the public still trusts farmers.

“There’s a high degree of trust,” he said, “and I think that comes from the fact that there is an emotional connection with food and the fact that growers are known to be trying to work sustainably. Growers look from generation to generation in terms of passing the farm down, oftentimes, and I think that is still understood by the public, even if people have a few reservations about some of the technologies we use in agriculture.”

According to a recent Bayer global study about consumers, Percy reported, “We are seeing, not just in the U.S., but also in the Europe, South America and Asia, a lot of questions coming up around agriculture. As an agricultural input company, we think it’s our role to help understand this [phenomenon], first of all. We think it is very important for us to help activate—be it farmers or other folks in the industry—to come out and talk about agriculture, enter into dialogue with consumers and explain what we do.”

Commenting on some of the study’s most interesting revelations, Percy said, “It was interesting just asking the general question, ‘Do you believe that innovation in agriculture is actually important?’ And people came back, ‘Yes, we do believe that we need to innovate. We do see that there is a need to feed a growing population and that we need to help farmers farm more sustainably with better tools.’”

On the other hand, Percy explained that consumers drew the line, “when we quizzed them about the individual tools. People don’t necessarily like the idea of chemicals on the farm or GM technology in certain cases in certain parts of the world. So those are the types of discussions that we need to really go into.”

AgVocating Carries a Big Message

AgVocating to the Consumers

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Adrian Percy, global head of research and development for the crop science division of Bayer, recently discussed with California Ag Today the big need for AgVocating for agriculture so that consumers can understand the business.

“We need to make sure that we can maintain or restore trust in food and agricultural production methods because clearly there is somewhat of a disconnection between growers and the community,” Percy said. “Roughly two percent of the U.S. population are farmers. As many folks move to the cities, they are more and more disconnected from agriculture, and people need to understand the story of agriculture and why it is so important.”

Bayer conducted a survey over 10 countries and 10,000 individuals to poll consumers on their opinions of farmers.

“One of the interesting things was that despite a lot of controversy around agriculture, monoculture, GM, organic versus non-organic, still the public trusts farmers. There’s a high degree of trust and I think that comes from the emotional connection with food,” Percy said.

Growers are known to work sustainably and pass on to one another.

“This is not just in the U.S., it is also in the European markets,” he explained.

There are a lot of questions coming up around agriculture. As an agricultural input company, Bayer’s role is to help activate farmers or other folks in the industry to come out and talk about agriculture.

“We think that’s very important,” Percy said.

Helping Consumers Understand Ag Tech

Bayer Does Consumer Research on Ag Technology

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Adrian Percy, Global Head of Research and Development for the Crop Science Division of Bayer, recently spoke with California Ag Today about consumer opinions on agriculture and ag tech.

“The public trusts farmers. There’s a high degree of trust, and I think that comes from the fact that there is an emotional connection with food, the fact that growers are known to be trying to work sustainably,” Percy said. “Often times, farmers look from generation to generation in terms of passing the farm down, and I think that’s still understood by the public, even if some of the technologies we’re using … people have some reservations about.”

“I mean, it’s not just consumers in the U.S., it’s also in the European markets and South America and in Asia,” Percy explained. “We’re seeing a lot of questions coming up around agriculture, and as an agricultural input company, we think it’s our role to help understand that. And we hope to activate farmers or other folks in the industry to come out and talk about agriculture, enter into dialogue with consumers and explain what we do. I think that’s very important.”

Percy discussed a study that covered different topics, including consumer opinions on innovations in agriculture.

“We looked to a whole bunch of different aspects. One of the things that was also interesting is just asking the general questions about do you believe: that innovation in agriculture is actually important? People came back, ‘Yes, we do believe that we need to innovate. We do see that there’s a need to feed a growing population and that we need to help farmers farm more sustainably with better tools,’” Percy said.

“On the other hand, when we quiz them about the individual tools, that’s where there is a reservation,” Percy explained. “People don’t necessarily like the idea of chemicals on the farm or GM technology in certain cases and certain parts of the world. So those are the types of discussions that we need to really go into.”

“Grow On” To Help Growers

Bayer Crop Science’s Grow On Campaign Has Six Focus Areas

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Nevada Smith

Grow On is a tool developed by Bayer Crop Science that farmers can use to identify, apply, and communicate sustainable farm practices. Grow On is made up of six different ag sustainability focus areas. This includes water, biodiversity, soil health, greenhouse gasses, labor, and food waste, all of which are important factors in sustainability.

California Ag Today spoke with Nevada Smith, Western Region Marketing Manager for Bayer Crop Science, about the six focus areas.

“One is water. And water is an especially important topic to Californians.”

Biodiversity. Think about the things you’re doing in the environment, from fertility, chemistry compounds.”

Food waste. How do you approach food waste? This is a big topic from a global aspect. Massive amounts of produce goes to waste. How can this food waste be utilized? I spoke to a grocer recently. They said they’re losing 30% of their food to food waste,” Smith explained.

“We think that soil health platform is the next wave of science for the ag industry. What’s going on in that microflora market in the soil? What are you doing to really adjust, get the air right, add right water, the right nutrients? Greenhouse gasses. How do you handle CO2 emissions?”

“Greenhouse gas is a buzzword among consumers. And what component of your farming practices are you doing to mitigate that from a practical standpoint?”

Labor is affecting everybody in California.

“And new labor laws are making business hard for small farmers. The minimal wage standard is a challenging issue, but how do growers become more efficient? How do they understand what the platforms are doing from a grower perspective? Smith said.

For more information on, visit: cropscience.bayer.us.

 

Bayer Launching CoLaborator Space in Sacramento

Biotech Startup Lab to Serve as Incubator

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Bayer Crop Sciences Biologics Group in West Sacramento is Bayer’s global headquarters for microbial base crop protection products. The company recently announced that a new biotech startup lab space known as the Crop Science CoLaborator is available in 3,000 square feet within the West Sacramento facility. Jon Margolis, head of research technologies for Bayer Biologics, recently spoke to California Ag Today about the project

Jon Margolis

“This is a part of the original building as we built it out,” Margolis said. “We set aside about 3,000 square feet in the back to be dedicated to this incubator space, and now we’ve just finished the construction.”

The lab space is scheduled to become available in December.

“It’s part of kind of a larger strategy for Bayer,” Margolis said. “So we have actually now three of these so-called CoLaborator spaces. So there’s one in Mission Bay associated with UCSS in San Francisco. There’s another one in Berlin, and then this is the latest. But this is the first one for Bayer that’s dedicated to agriculture and food research.”

We asked Margolis what the meaning is behind the CoLaborator.

“It’s really based around the idea that for start-up companies, there’s a clear benefit of being associated and nearby to Bayer, not so much for the facilities as much as the opportunities to be able to talk to and interact with us,” Margolis explained. “From our side, it’s a great thing because it gives us kind of a reason or an opportunity to be talking to start-ups in this space who might be interested in renting this.”

Bayer is already starting to solicit for tenants for the space.

“It’ll be a combination of office and then fully modern, what we call, wet lab or biochemistry and cell biology kind of labs, which would be able to host up to three different companies,” Margolis said. “So typically, these early stage start-up companies are comprised one to three people, and what they’re really trying to do is get the initial proof of concept to really show that their idea, their technology works, to then be able to go out to investors and get the next round of funding. So this is kind of in that sweet spot because there’s not a lot of that space in the local area.”