Bayer enlists hi-tech for sustainable agriculture

May 20, 2019 | 09:21
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Operating in Vietnam for 25 years, Bayer Vietnam has made great contributions to the country’s agricultural development in the way of digitalisation, particularly in the context of climate change. Phuong Hao reports.
bayer enlists hi tech for sustainable agriculture
Digital farming solutions are not just adding efficiency to agriculture, but doing so in a sustainable manner

Over the years, climate change has had a marked negative impact on agriculture in Vietnam, particularly in the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in 2018, Vietnam was one of the five most vulnerable countries on the globe to climate change. Vietnam also ranked fifth on the Global Climate Risk Index and eighth for long-term Climate Risk Index (CRI).

Particularly in the Mekong Delta provinces, in the near future, about 35 per cent of the population will be affected and about 40.5 per cent of the region’s total rice production will be lost.

Meanwhile, according to Tran Vinh, deputy director of the Western Highlands Agriculture & Forestry Science Institute, climate change has directly caused shortages of water in the irrigation system, threatening agriculture in the Central Highlands. “Every year, the Central Highlands is short of 5 billion cubic metres of water, and this number will increase to 5.5 billion cu.m by 2030,” he said.

With the hope of supporting farmers in Vietnam overcome difficulties caused by climate change and drive the development of sustainable agricultural practices, Bayer Vietnam has been implementing different projects targeting seedlings, planting methods, and taking care of trees.

Helping agriculture adapt to climate change

As a coffee farmer in Quang Hiep commune in Cu M’Gar district of the Central Highlands’ province of Daklak, farmer Tran Van Nhien has been participating in the pilot application of Drip Protection in coffee replanting for over 20 months. “I use drip protection on 250 coffee trees. I am glad to see 100 per cent coffee trees were successfully re-planted where traditional practice can only achieve less than 50 per cent. Importantly, it also helped me reduce costs and manage residues,” Nhien said.

Drip Protection is the combination of velum technology and drip irrigation system of Israeli company Netafim, a partner of Bayer. This is an excellent solution for nematode controlling, and other products, that helps solve the major challenges of coffee replanting.

In 2016, recognising that 20 per cent of Vietnam’s coffee plantation area is ageing, resulting in a 30-40 per cent decrease in the yield of the country, Bayer has implemented a programme helping farmers to successfully replant the trees. With Bayer’s measures, water and plant protection products will be distributed around fields through the drip irrigation system and delivered directly to the roots of the plants.

Drip Protection can create many shared values among various stakeholders. For farmers, it can bring better profitability with yield and quality increase, labour cost reduction for spray, operator exposure elimination as well as helping with risk management. As for drip irrigation companies, it will help on commercial increase along with high value proposition via knowledge sharing. As for the industry, this innovation is setting a new standard for further application and advancement. Taking into account food chain companies, the shared values could be shown clearly in better quality, profitability and predictability with compliant residue and importantly traceability via increased acceptance and acknowledgement.

On top of that, the solution brings about the water use efficiency via elevating farming practices, with the mechanism impacting on non-target organisms, helping to reduce footprint, which strongly addresses the interest of the local community and government.

Besides, in the context of climate change with salinity intrusion and floods, Bayer has introduced the Arize Hybrid Rice varieties which have a better salinity tolerance than open pollinated rice seeds widely used in the Mekong Delta and have a pipeline of varieties of stress tolerance traits such as Rice Brown Hopper and submergence.

Climate change has also brought more diseases. Fall armyworm (FAW) was found in Vietnam and has recently become a serious threat for corn production. Through social networking tools, Bayer introduced Dekalb corn traits with the hope of helping farmers to eradicate this pest, a move which will have a wholly beneficial impact on small-holder farmers.

Driving a digital economy to make agriculture sustainable

Bayer is the world-leading agricultural input player with strong focus and investment on digital farming technologies. Given enough data in this digital era, every decision on the farm becomes prescriptive, with calculated risk and probability over time for every crop, practice, and product. Digital farming is the solution to support farmers to make better decisions, and Bayer ambitions to offer value adding Tailored Solutions and superior customer experience based on grower needs. In Asia, the company has already launched a smartphone app-based digital advisory tool called FarmRise in India for corn and vegetable farmers. In China, application of crop protection with drones (Unmanned Aerial System) is already widely commercialised, and Bayer is driving innovation to improve its technology with business partners.

For Vietnam, with an aim to accompanying the Vietnamese government to promote sustainable agriculture, particularly in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Bayer has commitment to drive a digital economy development even in rural areas in the country for small-holder farmers who contribute to sustainable development of agriculture industry. The company’s ambitions to bring those digital solutions to enhance small-holder farmers’ technical capabilities with digital advisory to optimise their cultivation method and overcome climate challenges and disease/pest stress to achieve higher yield, quality, and profit.

With that, the company enables small-holder farmers to increase agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner and to improve the lives of their families and communities as well as making their contribution to keeping Vietnam’s agriculture competitive in international markets. It is conformed digits already positivity impacts on small-holder farmers.

For example, Bayer has recently utilised social network tool to communicate with farmers during the time when FAW was identified a few weeks ago in Vietnam, becoming a serious threat for corn production. The company has posted an article on Facebook to disseminate Bayer’s Dekalb corn traits which having resistance against FAW. The post has been accessed by thousands of farmers to learn about new technology.

With rapid innovations of new technologies, such as more reasonably priced smartphones and drones, Bayer believes that digital farming will become a game-changing solution for small-holder farmers. Drone application of crop protection will help farmers to reduce heavy workload, minimise operator exposure, achieve more targeted/uniformed spray for better efficacy and less environmental impact as well as ensure compliant use. Using the right distribution of fertilisers and crop protection for local conditions in less total volume helps increasing productivity while reducing the strain on natural resources. Last but not least, with digital technology, Bayer can help address food safety concerns for consumers in large cities from overseas markets. Digital technology will enable to increase transparency in the value chain and it will be possible for traders, retailers, and consumers to understand how crops are produced.

As a committed partner of sustainable agriculture, Bayer’s sustainability strategy is centred on its innovative strength which opens up new business opportunities to generate economic, ecological, and social benefits by connecting economic growth with environmental and social responsibility. With breakthrough innovation and valuable new technology in seeds, crop protection, and services, Bayer has been helping farmers to produce food without harming the environment and putting the health of humans or animals at risk, promoting and advancing sustainable agriculture for customers and society.

In order for Bayer and other innovation-oriented companies to ensure timely introduction of digital farming technologies, infrastructure development and predictable and internationally harmonised regulatory environment would be key factors. Bayer would like to take partnership approach to collaborate with all public and private stake-holders to jointly accelerate these prioritised areas.

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