BayWa AG today presented its product innovations for vendor-independent digital farming. With solutions tailored to the farmer's individual needs, the Munich-based group is continuing to remove existing entry barriers, especially for small and medium-sized farms. According to surveys on Smart Farming carried out among farmers, high acquisition costs for the technology and a lack of compatibility between agricultural technology and software are among the most common obstacles to investment, even before a lack of broadband expansion.
"We are thus honouring our promise to make Smart Farming available to all farmers," said Klaus Josef Lutz, Chief Executive Officer of BayWa AG, at BayWa's press conference on the Agritechnica trade fair. In order to be able to make full use of this potential, however, nationwide fast Internet access remains a basic requirement, especially where machines communicate with machines. "This is why we are supporting the joint call of the German Farmers' Association and other business associations to politicians for a nationwide fibre optic supply system," said Lutz.
Digitisation is also changing the way BayWa communicates with farmers. With “BayWa Online Welt”, the Munich-based group has created an Internet platform that offers a third, purely Internet-based channel in addition to BayWa sites and mobile services. For example, farmers can place orders and access invoices and contracts. More digital functions are coming soon, such as displaying fill level data from the feed silo or heating oil tank. "BayWa has its roots in its customers. Whether via Skype, Internet chat or on-site – we will continue to be available to farmers in person. Because being able to contact an actual person is the basis of our business and our success," says Lutz.
The potential of digital platforms for agribusiness is also being explored by three of the six start-ups that are going through this year's Acceleration Programme from BayWa and RWA. Klaus Lutz: "In this way, we want to pro-actively discover innovations in agriculture and develop and benefit from them to the advantage of our customers." If one of the business ideas should be so convincing that it fits into BayWa's portfolio, investment is a possibility.
NEXT Farming software: key role in Smart Farming
BayWa set the course to becoming Europe's Smart Farming market leader with its acquisition of FarmFacts GmbH (formerly LandData) two years ago and initiated development of the vendor-independent farm management system, NEXT Farming. Internet-based software plays a pivotal role in removing existing barriers to investment in Smart Farming. NEXT Farming has nine new applications available for Agritechnica.
NEXT Farming is an open, modular farm management system. The user chooses the modules and product solutions according to their personal requirements; there is no need for a base module. "This saves unnecessary costs. Because the farmer only buys what he really needs," says Roland Schuler, member of the BayWa Board, whose areas of responsibility include digital farming. With the offer of further services – for example soil sampling and drone-based crop protection – the added value for the farmer goes far beyond that of "pure" agricultural software.
The nutrient requirement calculation function in the new NEXT Fertilisation module promises guaranteed safety in complying with the new Fertiliser Ordinance (DüV). The farmer simply enters the known parameters of his farm, for example crop rotation or yield expectations, and the software automatically calculates the optimal nutrient requirement according to the rules of the DüV. "We estimate that at least 200,000 of the country's 275,000 farmers are affected by this in various ways," says Schuler. “We can offer simple tools for farmers to meet their planning and documentation obligations for any type and size of farm."
BayWa is bringing to the market a complete package for field-specific maize sowing with its 4.0 maize sowing system. From the analysis of field heterogeneity by remote sensing to variable sowing of the optimal maize variety by a contractor, the farmer can book this Smart Farming application from a single source. "Small and medium-sized farms in particular benefit from Smart Farming without having to invest in the necessary technology or software," says Schuler. In-house practical trials at six locations in Lower Bavaria showed an average yield increase of five per cent.
With the NEXT Machine Management module, agricultural companies face a major hurdle in the digitisation of their production: a lack of compatibility. Together with the six agricultural machinery manufacturers AGCO, Krone, Kuhn, Lemken, Pöttinger and Rauch, FarmFacts will develop a machine management system that can be used to process all data generated by machines and equipment, regardless of the vendor. The software will be integrated into NEXT Farming as a new module with the name "NEXT Machine Management". It is to be launched to market throughout Europe by the end of 2018, then internationally at a later date.
BayWa at Agritechnica
According to the BayWa trade fair motto "Solutions that connect", digitally networked products and services are one of the focal points of BayWa's trade fair presence this year. All the main scenarios of an agricultural business are covered in Hall 20, Stand A52: office, field, stable and workshop are reflected as a thematic unit on the BayWa stand. Daily expert lectures and presentations on current topics such as the new Fertiliser Ordinance, digitisation in animal husbandry or the sowing of maize for specific areas – almost 20 events in total – round off BayWa's trade fair presence. BayWa's subsidiary FarmFacts GmbH is presenting at its own booth in the Software Hall 15, Stand 15 G06. It is focusing on the company's own powerful farm management systems NEXT Farming and Agrar Office, including the product innovations they contain and the expertise gained through Vista GmbH in evaluating satellite data for inventory management.
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