Farmers around the world are using new technology to create more sustainable, efficient operations

There is much more to the modern farm than meets the eye. Data and technology are helping farmers to feed and serve a growing global population in the face of a range of challenges, such as unpredictable weather, and are helping them develop smart solutions to combat weeds, pests, and diseases. Here are some of the ways Bayer’s Crop Science division is innovating to create a sustainable future for agriculture-part of its goal to make “health for all, hunger for none” a reality

Agricultural innovation is helping to reduce environmental impact while increasing yields

How farmers are using data and technology to meet the world's food demand

During the next 30 years, the United Nations estimates that the global population will grow by 2 billion people to nearly 10 billion. To meet this demand, agriculture must wrest larger yields from a shrinking land base. At the same time, climate change and other environmental issues demand a radical reduction to agriculture’s total carbon footprint.

Of course, many other factors contribute to global food insecurity, from political instability to economic pressures. But while yields alone don’t feed the world, the task before agriculture remains to produce more food with less-less land, less resources, less impact. Making that happen will depend on technological innovation to make food production more efficient.

Recently, Bayer Crop Science and Fast Company hosted Transformative Innovation, a virtual panel event which brought together experts to discuss where agriculture is now, where it needs to be, and how it’s going to get there. Here are four key takeaways from the event.


“Agriculture is quite technical,” says Dr. B. B. Bob Reiter, head of research and development, Crop Science at Bayer. “It’s an incredibly fast adopter of technology.” Successful growers are the epitome of the “fail fast, learn fast” credo commonly associated with Silicon Valley start-ups, using new methods and products to bring greater precision and control to an unpredictable industry.

Farmers already use GPS, artificial intelligence, and machine learning technologies to make the best decisions possible for every acre of land they farm. Kyle Bridgeforth, co-owner of Alabama-based Bridgeforth Farms, says his company’s machinery gathers real-time data, which is then used to improve factors like when and where to plant new crops. “A generation ago, farming was purely an art,” Bridgeforth says. “Now, you’re layering in data from several different sources to make the best decision.”

It’s not just high-tech machinery that growers are benefiting from,” says Dr. Klaus. Karen Hildebrand, worldwide tech leader in agriculture at Amazon Web Service. New technology is not only making data easier to understand, but also easier to access. For instance, digital tools that allow for voice interactivity let growers access data without having to pull out a smartphone. “It’s something you can do even if you have dirty hands,” she says. “You can have a conversational interface and say, ‘What are the market conditions today?’ or ‘How much rain are you expecting in the forecast seven days from now?’ Those are the types of things that really change what a producer is able to do.”

How farmers are using data and technology to meet the world's food demand


Farmers used to perfect their methods by observing and experimenting over the course of multiple crop cycles. Now they’re collecting reams of granular data every day to drive decision-making in real time. The next leap forward will come from sharing that data-with other farmers, climate scientists, and agricultural scientists. Doing so makes it possible to develop crops and products tailored to increase yield and lower impact on a specific piece of land. “I think that’s the big data opportunity,” Reiter says. “We understand the environmental data so much better-and the data coming off the farm-that we’re now trying to design the next-generation product specifically for [one farm].” Hildebrand says the key to increased data sharing is ensuring that “the farmer owns the data and feels confident it’s secure.” What’s more, Reiter adds, the data must add value for farmers and consumers alike.