New Digital Tools Require Careful Evaluation

Before adopting any new digital tool, Syngenta puts it through a rigorous proof of concept.
New Digital Tools Require Careful Evaluation.
In 2018, $945 million was invested in startups creating on-farm digital agriculture tools, for a 65% increase year over year*. 2019 is on track to be another record year, as ag companies are eager to find the best tools for their customers. Syngenta is no exception.

Before adopting any new #digitalag tool, @SyngentaUS puts it through a rigorous proof of concept.

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“We’re always looking for great tools that our partners are or could be using,” says Aaron Deardorff, head of Digital Ag Solutions at Syngenta. “We want to continue enhancing the opportunities available through AgriEdge®, the Syngenta whole-farm management platform.”

Deardorff says it’s a fine balance between pushing boundaries while still ensuring functionality and viability in the marketplace.

To determine what tools to consider, the Digital Ag Solutions team combines feedback the technical support team receives with input from its Executive Business Council — a board of growers from across the U.S. — and certified AgriEdge partners, strategic retail partners approved to offer AgriEdge to their grower customers.

Once Syngenta identifies a potential technology or integration opportunity, it faces a rigorous proof of concept. If it passes, a pilot program will ensue. In pilot programs, Syngenta relies on strategic retailer and grower partners to determine market value and conduct trials.

“We look at new technology and integrations from every angle: the target region or geography, the customers who would use it, the relevant crops, the feasibility of integrating it with existing technologies, and so on,” Deardoff says. “It’s not uncommon for a project to make it to the proof-of-concept phase, or even the pilot phase, then be pulled back because it didn’t ultimately bring value to the customer.”

Right now, Syngenta has several offerings in its digital ag pipeline, including a project combining sensor technology with drone technology for improved scouting along with a tool combining crowdsourcing with artificial intelligence recognition for more accurate agronomic recommendations.

“We’re not far from a digital ecosystem where most of the tools — or at least the ones that succeed in the market — will be connected.”

Aaron Deardorff

Syngenta Digital Ag Solutions is also tapping into its global resources. For example, the team is considering how software from Strider, a newly acquired Brazilian ag tech company, may enhance the capabilities of the current AgriEdge farm management software. If these solutions make it past the pilot stage and into growers’ hands, they will offer a seamless flow of data with existing Syngenta tools.

“Our ultimate goal is for all of a grower’s or retailer’s digital systems to connect,” Deardorff says. “We’re not far from a digital ecosystem where most of the tools — or at least the ones that succeed in the market — will be connected. We want to be a source that provides growers and resellers with a comprehensive data connection point, personalized service and the right product portfolio to help them succeed.”

*AgFunder, 2018 AgFunder AgriFood Tech Investing Report.