Digitization is a relatively new concept that refers to adaptation, evolution, to processes in which digital tools acquire essential relevance. Digitization also affects the agricultural world, and Probelte works to be at the forefront of innovation at the service of society. We speak with José Santiago Nuñez, Chief Data Officer of Probelte, who gives us a vision of the relevance of the digital world in the production, management and health of crops.
Digitization and bioproducts: the two lines of development of Probelte to achieve the sustainability of the field
Talking about digitization is talking about a future that is already here. Both the tools and the data they provide, as well as the immense probabilities that result from them, make the digital world a priority in the modern world. Agriculture, of course, is no exception. “My role as Chief Digital Officer [CDO] consists of helping Probelte in its transformation and growth process by applying digital tools and artificial intelligence,” explains Jose Santiago.
The influence of his actions in the company is intended to ensure that Probelte can favor the positioning of agriculture as a more precise and sustainable management, “to improve the response to climate change and its impact on human health”.
“Digitization is going to be necessary to develop Probelte’s transformation and growth strategy,” continues the CDO. In this strategy, two aspects take center stage: biosolutions and internationalization. “We understand biosolution as the promotion of products with low toxicological risk that help agricultural producers to produce more sustainable crops that are more beneficial for human health. We understand internationalization as the increase in the commercial area thanks to the fact that the products help to mitigate or take advantage of the consequences of climate change”.
However, he says, biological products are more complex to use because they are less consistent in their results due to a greater reliance on environmental factors. In addition, its use is eminently preventive, recurrent and they may have incompatibilities with other products.
“In order to understand more and better these aspects of efficacy and applicability, we are going to require more data that will allow us to build behavior models with the help of technologies such as artificial intelligence and then translate them into prescriptive models of the use of the product that we will expose as digital tools,” he clarifies. With this goal in mind, Probelte’s strategic development relies increasingly on digitization. “Digitization has a transversal impact across the company. It can help increase the value chain and speed it up. In a first phase, we are going to direct its application to product improvement. With this I hope to have greater interaction with the Marketing department and R&D. In those areas, I think the company has great knowledge and motivation to lead the biosolutions market.”
The digital and (bio)agriculture: in search of science.
“There are many factors that influence the efficacy and applicability of bioproducts,” José Santiago begins to explain, stating that in order to broaden this knowledge we have to systematize the capture of data that reflects the diversity of conditions of use, regions and crops. “To handle this huge volume of data, and make it more effective and scalable, we will need all possible digital tools: both sensors and data capture, as well as fusion with third-party sources, the creation of predictive and prescriptive models…”.
Then, we will translate that into services integrated into digital tools that help customers in the correct choice of product, timing, and its application. Those aspects are key in the in the right use of bioproducts. “We can customize their application and effectiveness by crop and region, and even by combining different treatments. For that we need data from as many situations as possible. The models generated will show us the limits and benefits of these products.”
“Predictive models”, describes the expert, “are the result of processing data by means of an algorithm that tells us what probabilistic relationship exists between the input parameters (for example, the weather, the soil, the calendar) and a certain effect (for example, the risk of a plague). Algorithms are designed to learn from relationships between data, hence the coinage of machine learning. It is difficult for humans to look for correlations of more than two variables. For machines, searching for relationships between thousands of variables from millions of data points is totally feasible with the current capabilities available in computing and cloud storage. Once inferred, preventive models can be converted into prescriptive ones, that is, recommend the best action to follow to optimize a result given certain conditions.
A more precise and sustainable future
According to José Santiago, both bioproducts and digital solutions are going to be important in precision agriculture and resource optimization. “In the case of Probelte”, he comments, “it will be an added factor that will help us differentiate ourselves from other products that are already well established in the market. Although similar, not all “bio” products are the same. If, in addition, we know how and when to best use them will add a competitive factor that will be difficult to imitate.
For the expert, moreover, the models developed in the process will become tools that will allow clients to know precisely how to act, instead of limiting themselves to guessing what could happen to the crop. “The objective of Probelte is to accompany our clients with digital services derived from the knowledge acquired from the data, in order to make better use of our products”, he comments. “A graphic example to visualize all this: it will be possible to notify a certain farmer via WhatsApp about a pest risk and the possible product with which he can combat it from a certain optimal moment. All this will have been calculated based on its location, its crop type, and the weather forecast. We will also be able to feedback the effect of this treatment, with sensors or information and images that the farmer sent us, and that, in addition, we will be able to continue improving the product. With all this, we will be able to position agriculture as a more precise and sustainable practice to improve the response to climate change and its impact on human health”, concl