We Are Always Rethinking Our Business
What’s the best way for us to create value in a digital world? This question arises not only for Bayer, but also for every other company, regardless of the industry they belong to. Some are already exploring new business models to enhance their products and services. Digitization thus leads to more competition among established companies, while opening the door to new entrants. That means it’s time for us to evolve existing business models and take advantage of this opportunity to position ourselves for a successful future.
But what needs to be done? I think we need to find answers to these two key questions:
- How can we add value and improve the experience for our customers?
- What might the business model look like?
I’d like to share my thoughts on these questions with you. I’d also love to hear what you think in the comments section below — or reach out to me on twitter or LinkedIn and we can have a talk over coffee.
Global Head Digital Farming at Bayer
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Enhanced customer value and experience
Bayer’s crop protection business has been successful for decades. To build on this success, we need to explore how we can enhance the value of established crop protection products with data and rethink the current customer experience. But where to start? It helps to take stock of our existing products and services and the related processes. Which of them are already digital? Which of them are not, or not fully? And which of them can be enhanced by digital technologies?
Take, for example, the process of applying fungicides. It’s very hard to determine the best possible time for an application. As a farmer, you need to constantly monitor crop growth, sensitivity to disease, actions your neighbors take, as well as current and forecast weather. Our newly developed digital solution simplifies this task. It uses a wide range of field-specific data to calculate the right application time and notifies the farmer automatically when it’s time for an application, improving his chances of achieving optimal yields.
Gain deeper knowledge
The development process for digital solutions differs considerably from the way in which crop protection products are developed. A digital solution doesn’t necessarily have to be developed all at once. Starting from what is known as a minimum viable product, further iterations add features with each new release. We are, for example, working on a scouting app that enables farmers to determine the condition of their crops and fields by using their smartphone cameras. Instead of developing and launching all the planned components at the same time, we started out with an app for weed scouting. This app is already on the market, and we are now gradually developing other components such as yield estimation, insect monitoring, disease recognition, and nutrient estimation to expand its functionality over the coming months. This approach allows us to bring the product to market much faster, gather practical experience, and use this knowledge to continuously improve the solution.
When farmers use the scouting app, it also gives us valuable agronomic information regarding, for example, the spread of weeds, insects, or diseases by region. Correlations between certain weather parameters and the occurrence of diseases are also revealed. Today, we cannot assess the implications of this massive growth in data. What is clear is that it can help us to further enhance both our digital solutions and our conventional crop protection products. And it will also enable us to develop entirely new and better solutions for farmers.
Reinventing a successful business
Together with the changes in our value creation processes, we need to adapt our established business models and embrace new opportunities. Take the automotive industry, for example. They were at risk of losing potential customers to unusual competitors such as car sharing companies because some drivers just want to get from point A to point B quickly and conveniently. Car ownership is a necessary evil for them. To reverse the trend, automotive manufacturers such as GM, BMW and Toyota launched their own car sharing services and thereby added an outcome-based business model to their traditional ownership models. It is likewise essential for us to also find new ways to get the customer to the desired final outcome — regardless of how we may have met those needs in the past.
The first step is to ask ourselves, what do farmers actually want and need? Are they willing to pay more for crop protection products, or for healthy fields? I would say: let’s find out! Because that’s what digital transformation is all about. Not just one, but countless potential paths exist. The only way to succeed is to explore many of the opportunities that open in front of us — even if some turn out to be dead ends. The time to start is now.
If you are interested in digitization and the opportunity it creates for farming, click here.