A successful collaboration between an external technology provider and Corteva Agriscience leads to a new service for farmers.
Farming is a challenging and risky profession. For the perfect growing season, the right amount of rain needs to fall, plants need to stay healthy, and pests need to be kept at bay. For farmers it can feel like a gamble, where an ever-changing environment controls the hand they’re dealt. At Corteva Agriscience, our fanatical focus on farmers means we are constantly working on innovative, science-based solutions to help them take back control.
But what if farmers could get a glimpse of the deck before the cards are dealt? What if through early identification of diseases, pests, and nutrient deficiencies farmers could more easily mitigate the effects of stress in their fields? Farmers and agronomists already spend a good amount of time having “what is this?” conversations. A tool that enables them to quickly diagnose common stressors could answer a number of those questions and provide rapid responses that would free up farmers’ and agronomists’ time. A collaboration between Corteva Agriscience and Progressive Environmental & Agricultural Technologies (PEAT), a German ag-tech startup places that much needed tool in farmers’ and agronomists' hands.
In 2014, the founders of PEAT were working on their Doctors of Philosophy (PhD) theses in Brazil.
“Farmers in the Amazon region of Brazil constantly asked us how to treat ‘Morte Subitio,’ which roughly translates to ‘Sudden Death,’ explains Rob Strey, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of PEAT. “I tried to Google the term, but I only found images of car accidents or similar – nothing about plant pathogens.”
Eventually, after conversing with other researchers, Rob and his team discovered that ‘Morte Subitio’ was a local name for Phytophthora, one of the most researched plant pathogens in the world.
“It was at this moment I realized the gap presented when farmers are using their local names to describe a pathogen. What if we could remove the confusion by using images instead of local languages to search? Based on this insight, I came up with the idea to use a vision based deep learning algorithm to identify pests and return the specific name and treatment recommendations in local languages. The idea of Plantix was born.”
In 2016, PEAT released Plantix, a plant stress identification app available in the Google Play Store. This mobile phone application allows users to snap a picture of symptoms in the field and get an immediate diagnosis. Originally launched in India with a primary focus on fruits and vegetables, the app was extremely successful. However, it lacked the robust pest identification algorithms required for the North American row crop market.
Jan-Michael Schulze, Corteva Alliance Manager, explained how the collaboration began. “When we learned about PEAT’s strength in the Indian market, we realized the potential to collaborate and adapt the company’s technology to diseases and crops in North America. This was mutually beneficial in that it enabled us to serve North American farmers while giving PEAT an opportunity to broaden their portfolio of crops and diseases.”
As a company, Corteva is focused on developing impactful innovations, both on its own and alongside companies with which it collaborates, that solve real farmer challenges. One key element of success in the collaboration with PEAT was ensuring scientists from both companies worked together to develop testing and evaluation plans. This was made possible through dedicated cooperation from Corteva, enabling a more successful collaboration.
“Deep mutual respect, strong alignment of values and clearly defined roles greatly contributed to the success of this collaboration," said Meg Ryan, Corteva Plantix Implementation Lead.
Working together, both parties drew upon one another's strenths to accelerate getting powerful solutions into farmers’ hands. Corteva teams provided remarkable, in-field data sets that PEAT leveraged to improve the Plantix database and underlying algorithms.
“PEAT’s breadth of crops and pests is tremendous and one of the fundamental reasons we began our collaboration with the organization. This collaboration allowed us to leap forward fast and provide a product to the field that has instant value,” stated Jeremy Groeteke, US Digital Agronomy Lead for Corteva.
“Deep mutual respect, strong alignment of values and clearly defined roles greatly contributed to the success of this collaboration."
-Meg Ryan, Corteva Plantix Implementation Lead
The Plantix database for disease, insect and nutrient stresses is now accessible globally for all Corteva affiliates. Today, Corteva provides a growing list of digital applications leveraging Plantix-powered technologies. Currently deployed in numerous offerings that span five continents, this technology is helping farmers of every operation size to capitalize on rapid in-field identification, enabling timely responses so they can play their hand right each growing season.
These successes were driven by the collaborative mindset and strong cooperation between Corteva and PEAT.
If you have a solution to one of the many agricultural challenges farmers face and you would like to collaborate to bring it to fruition, we invite you to submit your proposal.
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