Digital4Cast: KWS And Agremo for Seed Suppliers and Growers

About the Project

KWS, a global seed industry giant, chose to collaborate with Agremo, an aerial imagery software provider, to improve sales by ensuring customer service and success, as well as market positioning.

DIGITAL4CAST is KWS’ innovative digital platform, powered by Agremo technology. It is designed to provide valuable information to growers and help them make advanced-informed decisions and better their performance.

The Digital4Cast program has been successful and by 2020 was operational in four South-Eastern European countries. The area which is being analysed has been expanding fast and has doubled each year since its inception in 2018.

Customer Requirements and Challenges

KWS is one of the five largest international seed producers in the world, supplying seeds for sugarbeets, fodder beets, corn, cereals, rapeseed, sunflower, soybeans, grain peas, sorghum, sugar millet, catch crops and various vegetables. In South-Eastern Europe, they work mainly with the corn, sugar beet, sunflower and oilseed rape farmers, in Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary.

To increase customer loyalty and brand strength, KWS wanted to start a program that aimed to:

KWS turned to the precision Ag service to improve customer success by improving crop yields through continuous risk assessment and customer care management. They started by identifying the points critical for the optimization of corn farming.

On the other side, Agremo provided the following services:

Specific KWS needs

The Change to Digital Agriculture

Farmers face many problems and unknowns and have so far relied on their own experiences and those of advisors to help them in the various steps of farming. They also do not have the resources and time to digitize their operations, and as a result, have been unable to take advantage of the data that seed suppliers provide. 

Suppliers who take the role of trusted advisors and not just sell inputs will win the market. 

Hardly any seed supplier has taken the crucial step of including digital technology as part of their package to growers to improve customer services. 

Hence, KWS needed novel third party end-to-end services to digitize agriculture and improve the current farming techniques used by corn growers with the aim of increasing farm efficiency. 

There are several areas of expertise such as collection of remote-sensed imagery, GIS data analyses and interpretation, and reporting, necessary to accurately count plants or demarcate areas with weeds and drought stress for variable rate applications.

Remedial measures based on inaccurate data could be either too little or too much, and can lower crop yield. 

KWS wanted to introduce a digital solution in the form of a drone-based data analytics turnkey solution that not only provided the individual services but tied them together through planning, organization, coordination, and supervision.  

The corn farmers had varying levels of prior experience with precision farming. Most farmers had never used precision farming methods and did not know how to apply the data they already had to improve farm operations. 

Hence, KWS needed a collaborating partner who had the ability to meet their business needs and provide actionable advice to growers.

“We have implemented Agremo smart farming solution to our processes and workflow since we recognized it as the most accurate in the market and with all the potential for improving and digitalizing KWS products and our farmers’ food production. Today, we are expanding an ongoing Digital4Cast project to other territories and continue following the precise sustainable agriculture practices. “

– Csaba KISS

Regional Director, South-East Europe, Corn and Oil crops, KWS Group

How Agremo Approached the Challenge

In 2018, KWS implemented the DIGITAL4CAST in collaboration with Agremo to integrate digital technology into the growers’ agricultural process for the whole corn cycle.

Working with KWS to identify their needs, Agremo designed the program using the corn analyses guideline. It was created by our agronomists and drone experts based on their experience working on thousands of hectares worldwide. They recommended that the corn farmers perform six tests from arable area calculation, population, weed, stress analyses, to yield estimations in four phases.

Agremo also provided continuous guidance and support during the entire process.

DESIGN AND PLAN

KWS and Agremo

COLLECT AERIAL DATA AND GENERATE MAPS

KWS and Agremo

ANALYZE IMAGES

Agremo

DELIVER AND APPLY

KWS and Agremo

The Process and the Solution

Reports from the six analyses helped KWS and Agremo show the corn growers how productivity was impacted in the four corn crop phases.

Phase I:

Arable Area and Elevation Analysis were custom-developed analyses tailored for the project needs for KWS. Arable area analysis is now offered for everyone.

Phase II:

Two tests, Plant population, and Weed Analysis were performed in the early season when the corn crop was in the 4-5 leaf stage.

Phase III:

Plant Stress Analysis was performed in the middle and late growing seasons to monitor crop health.

Phase IV:

Stand Count Analysis & Yield Potential Analysis were used in the late season to estimate corn yield.

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The Decisions Informed by the Agremo Analyses

Agremo field analyses and reports benefited several levels of decision-making by providing insights to improve crop performance, business intelligence, customer service, and customer success.

Crop performance

Before the program, growers had no idea of how various factors were affecting the final yield. Digital4Cast helped them in each phase to remedy problems and provided them an overview necessary to alter future operations. KWS gained insight into their hybrids’ performance and the constraints on yield. For example, variety 1 faced the least problems in field 3 and reached 95% of its potential yield, while variety 2 performed best in field 5, as shown in Table 1.

agremo-kws

Table1: Comparison of varieties and agricultural practices’ effect on yield. 

KWS Success

It is no longer enough for a seed supplier to sell just seeds- farmers’ expectations have changed. 

Most farmers are challenged by the paradigm shift in farming to optimize yield and cultivate sustainably. They do not have the resources and time to engage with this new trend, as the vast range of precision farming technologies available in the market can be very confusing. KWS was able to stand out among its competitors, by providing farmers with much-needed expertise and support in the digitalization of agriculture, to increase their farm efficiency.

KWS offered corn growers an enhanced customer experience by providing optimized solutions. And Agremo delivered the entire package to farmers for KWS.

Agremo designed a digital agri-business model that helped KWS provide transparency into product performance and respond faster to the corn growers’ needs. The project made KWS the growers’ trusted advisor in their agricultural operations.

In turn, farmers responded by becoming loyal and repeat customers. The farmers also spread the information by word of mouth to their friends and brought in new customers for KWS in the succeeding season.

Moreover, KWS succeeded in digitizing and improving corn growers’ farms and attracted more area coverage in their Digital4Cast project. The area covered was doubled in each year of the Digital4Cast project. 

KWS also received business intelligence insights from Digital4Cast on how to finetune their:

  • Pricing model
  • Service design and delivery
  • Project coordination

Customer service

Digtal4Cast helped KWS build closer relationships with the corn growers. The project identified three categories of customers, based on their needs and ability to use precision agriculture (PA). This insight helped them optimize their customer service in the following years to fit each of the three grower personas and serve them more effectively and profitably:

  • PA-Ready Users were medium growers with a low level of technology adoption, but were open to precision agriculture and needed end-to-end support.
  • PA-Aware Users were usually large growers and enterprises, who made up the majority of participants. They were aware of precision agriculture and had machines that could support variable rate application. This group only needed support with management practice to become regular PA users.
  • PA Users were few and consisted of big growers and enterprises who had already digitalized their agricultural operations to a certain extent.

Return on investment

Through the Digital4Cast, Agremo provided assured data collection of imagery, data analytics, and results, as well as the compilation of reports. KWS’ choice of Agremo was vindicated as:

  • Agremoapp is hardware and sensor agnostic and no special drone or satellite equipment was required.
  • It is user-friendly and reports are simple-to-understand and apply.
  • Agremo provided high-quality and devoted end-to-end support and delivered high-value outputs.

Overall, the feedback on Digital4Cast from the participants was positive. KWS achieved its aims which included gaining:

  • Better hybrid insight
  • Improved grower and market gaps insights
  • The reputation of a digitally-oriented brand
  • Specialized marketing/sales tool
  • Better service quality and more streamlined sales funnel

The program’s success can be gauged by KWS’ continuing collaboration with Agremo and increased participation of growers. In turn, these activities aid in positioning KWS as a digital and environmentally-sustainable brand.

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