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Bayer launches new platform to ease transition to sustainable agriculture

© Shutterstock / OleksSHBayer.

Health and agriculture multinational Bayer launches ForGround, a digital platform for farmers that offers tools, resources and incentives to adopt more sustainable agricultural practices beyond carbon emissions considerations.

Bayer’s new digital platform ForGround to be a one-stop-shop for farmers to increase their sustainability and adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices.

The agricultural sector is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s GHG emissions, and is one of the most vulnerable sectors to the impacts of climate change.

Sustainable agriculture solutions must look to jointly increase yield, reduce environmental impacts, and increase resilience.

The new platform builds on Bayers carbon program, which currently offers farmers the opportunity for revenue by adopting climate-smart agricultural practices. ForGround will expand on this program by going beyond carbon offsets to give farmers the tools to better measure their climate impact and explore other ways that farmers increase sustainable practices by connecting them with resources and companies relevant to meeting sustainability goals.

Helping farms at every scale reduce climate impact and improve harvest quality

The ForGround platform is made for farms of all sizes to support the agricultural sector’s transition to practices that reduce climate impact and can increase the quality of harvests.

The platform will focus on supporting enrolled farmers with tools and resources to implement regenerative agriculture practices, as well as provide farmers with potential new revenue streams to reduce the transition cost barrier.

Bayer (OTC:BAYRY) hopes that implementing the practices recommended through the platform will overall benefit farmers and the planet by improving soil health, increasing water availability, reducing the need for inputs, and increasing weather resiliency.

“We know that better harvests and a better future start with healthy soils and investing in farmers’ success – and believe that the ForGround platform will help them make the transition to more sustainable practices – and ensure agriculture is part of the climate solution” explained Leo Bastos, Bayer’s head of global commercial ecosystems.

ForGround is a key tool in Bayer’s downstream sustainability strategy

Like many businesses today, Bayer sees the transition to more sustainable practices as insurance for the future success of their business in the face of looming climate-related risks, which particularly impact agriculture, one of Bayer’s key revenue streams.

“For us, sustainability means more than just corporate responsibility – it safeguards Bayer’s future growth”, according to the company’s latest sustainability report.

In regards to Bayer’s agriculture business, the company is focusing its sustainability efforts on developing new technologies, new innovative farming methods and seeds, supply chain partnerships, and engagement with smallholder farmers, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), to deploy more climate-smart agriculture while increasing yields.

Bayer aims to support 100 million smallholder farmers in lower and middle-income countries (LMICs) by 2030 by improving access to agricultural products and services that reduce environmental impact and business risks.

In 2021, the company reported that it was nearly halfway towards this goal, and plans to deploy the ForGround platform as means to accelerate the adoption of their climate-smart solutions.

“ForGround is a key commercial piece of how we are working to achieve our goals of reducing our customers’ in-field carbon emissions in major agricultural markets by 30% and becoming carbon neutral in our own operations by 2030” commented Bastos.

The focus of Bayer’s GHG reductions will be their customers with high emitting crops such as soy and corn in the United States, Brazil and Argentina, paddy rice in India, and wheat, cotton, and canola in various regions.

Innovating climate smart agriculture solutions

ForGround is how Bayer can disseminate climate-smart and sustainable farming solutions to its customers, and the solutions themselves should be the focus to achieve the company’s climate targets.

Bayer is developing a wide range of tools which the company labels as “climate smart”. These include high-yielding crop genetics, crop protection products, precision irrigation systems, soil management tactics through no-till and cover crops, crop rotation, root health, fertilisation management, microorganisms and inoculants, dry-seeded rice, and digital and precision farming tools.

The company argues that combining a selection of these tools can improve the yields of their farmers while reducing environmental impact and carbon emissions.

For example, crop covering, a farming practice which improves soil health, more efficiently uses water and naturally controls pests and diseases, is a regenerative agriculture practice that can also increase yields.

A Conservation Technology Information Center study found that on average, farmers that used crop covering practices for five consecutive years saw a 3% increase in corn yields and 5% in soybean yields.

However, the company acknowledges that there still is a need for synthetic crop protection solutions to ensure high yields, although Bayer aims to reduce the environmental impact of their crop protection treated area per hectare by 30% against a 2014-2018 baseline.

With so many new solutions available that claim to increase sustainability and growth of crops, a platform such as ForGround can be an important tool to help farmers navigate the sea of solutions and find the one(s) that work best for their specific needs. This can help facilitate the transition to more sustainable agriculture in an increasingly complicated space.

The agricultural sector faces a trilemma

The agricultural sector is arguably one of the most complex sectors to address sustainability and climate issues, as it is so intrinsically linked to nature, society and climate risks.

Currently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that agriculture, forestry and other land use account for about one-quarter of all GHG emissions globally, making it one of the highest emitting sectors.

However, reducing emissions is not as simple as in other sectors as demand for food is set to sky-rocket over the coming years. Studies estimate that the world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, which will require an increase in global food production of 70%.

Meeting this significant demand while reducing emissions will be met with yet another obstacle – the impacts of climate change itself on agricultural production. Shifting participation patterns, soil erosion, and higher temperatures due to climate change will place increasing pressures on a sector that will already be struggling to meet demand sustainably.

Europe has already had a glimpse into these climate change impacts this summer, with the continent’s heatwaves slashing the yields of staple crops by 8-9%.

Innovating new climate smart agricultural practices therefore must address these three challenges: increasing yield, reducing environmental impact, and increasing resilience. These three challenges cannot be solved in isolation, and must be considered as jointly the agricultural sector develops in the coming years in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and ensure food security for future generations.

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