Digital Imagery Puts Retailers and Growers a Step Ahead

Digital Imagery Puts Retailers and Growers a Step Ahead

“I remember back in the day on our small family farm when we would drive around in the field trying to make replant decisions,” recalls Jacob Winans, a technical agronomy information specialist with Brandt , an Illinois-based retailer. “At the time, I thought there should be a better way. Now, there one.” It’s called FarmShots ; and when Syngenta acquired the satellite imagery service three years ago, it changed the game for retailers like Brandt. “We quickly started using FarmShots as our No. 1 internal tool to look at imagery because of the ease of it,” Winans says. The Syngenta Drone Scouting Solution , which the company now offers to retailers as part of its digital field insight and analysis tools, enables drones to fly a field and quickly stitch together high-res imagery, which can be viewed, examined and shared within FarmShots. As a result, Winans is able to offer growers a level of analysis previously unheard of. During the planting season, Winans’ drone flies over and takes photos of an entire field in a short amount of time. He then uploads those photos into his FarmShots software. Right away, he downloads a shape file and makes a variable-rate replant script based on the photos his drone captured less than 10 minutes earlier. Previously, the lag between taking photos and making a recommendation was a week. Today, Winans makes the recommendation while he’s on the farm. “This new efficiency is huge, because while I’m on a farm engaging with the grower, I can make a recommendation,” he says. “In my opinion, there previously hasn’t been a lot of actionable information coming out of digital tools. The information wasn’t coming in quickly enough to make a timely decision. But with FarmShots, you can make decisions in real time. That was my aha moment.” According to Shane Taylor, marketing manager for Digital Ag Solutions at Syngenta, FarmShots builds confidence in growers’ decision-making by providing a way to view imagery through different algorithms or filtering data to analyze and provide histograms on plant health. “If a grower looks at a field with satellite, aircraft or drone imagery and sees an area of the field that needs to be avoided because of standing water, he or she can create a prescription or map of the field that excludes areas that shouldn’t be planted,” he explains. Once that map is created in the FarmShots software, growers can send it to their planters to implement in the planting process. “We’re building FarmShots to provide increasingly robust field monitoring so growers can use it to keep track of what’s going on in their fields. That’s a key element.” FarmShots also confirms recommendations retailers make based on field imagery. “Let’s suppose a retailer looks at those FarmShots images and recommends a fungicide for a particular field that is showing signs of disease stress,” Taylor says. “That retailer can look at plant health prior to application and compare how it’s holding up a month later to verify his or her recommendation to the grower, who is seeing good results in the field.” Showing growers the impact via the images underlines the value of the service from the retailer. In the same vein, Taylor notes that while he firmly believes Syngenta has the best products in the industry, it isn’t as good as it. “For example, in some areas, we’ve done side-by-side comparisons of products to see which one performs better,” he says. ”Not only do these digital imagery tools help with scouting, but they also build confidence in decision-making.” With a goal of empowering retailers with tools they can use to help their growers, Syngenta provides the FarmShots imagery and analysis solution as one of several offers in its suite of digital agronomy products. Local retailers have the option of applying their own logo and FarmShots URL, providing a retailer-branded imagery platform for their operations. “This keeps the focus on the retailers and their expertise,” Taylor says. Historically, many companies focused on providing tools directly to growers without including retailers in that journey. Syngenta is retailer-first in its approach to maximize the value to growers. “Retailers provide a variety of services to their customers, and that starts with their local agronomic knowledge,” Taylor says. “Local expertise should always trump analysis without context.” From a retailer perspective, Winans sees the value of digital ag tools and how they can strengthen his relationship with growers. “FarmShots is that bridge,” he says. “Plus, it’s pretty fun for me because I get to play with nice toys. This is right in my wheelhouse of understanding digital solutions and using them as a resource.”