PERSPECTIVE: Over the next few days and weeks in the ag media space the major players will examine this latest proposed Bayer-Monsanto mega merger from every conceivable angle. Bear with us, dear reader, as it might get to be a bit much for some of you.
However, that is, after all, what we purveyors of the hottest of hot takes (sorry, Stephen A. Smith) tend to do.
One of our industry’s preeminent hot take maestros, my boss Paul Schrimpf, often likes to say that we have to wear different hats here at Meister Media Worldwide due to our dual publishing roles with both CropLife and PrecisionAg.com. So I’m going to put on my PrecisionAg.com hat and tell you why the ability to grab hold of The Climate Corporation (acquired by Monsanto for $930 million almost three years ago) surely sweetened the pot for the German ag chemical giant.
First and foremost, Bayer CropScience has never really put forth a particularly strong presence in the digital farming landscape. It seems over the past few years as other crop protection companies like DuPont Pioneer worked out the kinks on its Encirca platform and Monsanto made its own Big Data play in scooping up Climate Corp. and linking it closely with equipment giant John Deere and other APIs, Bayer has been focused on its various sustainability initiatives – most notably its bee and native pollinator health initiatives.
Yet if there is any doubt to Bayer’s intentions today for Climate Corp and its evolving FieldView platform (recently announced integrations with MZB Technologies, Deere, and WinField’s R7 Tool) check out this excerpt from a recent guest post on the Bayer: Science For A Better Life blog, written by Clemens Delatree, CEO of green spin, titled “Smartening Up Tomorrow’s Agriculture”:
“Today’s farmers are, for example, able to combine special seeds with integrated plant protection measures to achieve better harvests. Cross-linking the information to conclude which seed thrives best with which plant-protection product and in which specific soil and climate – this is smarter agriculture or Smart Farming. So the next step is to combine current and historical weather data with satellite-based biomass and chlorophyll measurements as well as yield data. When added to special breed characteristics, the result can be an optimally customized crop management plan. This integrated approach is so much better than the currently existing stand-alone solutions: we call it Decision Farming. And many experts believe that it will revolutionize agriculture even further.”
Does that sound a bit familiar to anyone? (Bueller? Bueller? Buellerrrrr?…anyone?)
To this author, who got his feet wet in the industry before Climate Corp. was even a mere twinkle in Monsanto’s wandering eye, that paragraph sounds an awful lot like some of what we heard during the early days of Monsanto’s now shuttered FieldScripts program.
It’s an ambitious undertaking, and one Bayer could not have — and likely would not have — attempted to pull-off without being able to bring on an already established player like Climate, with its tens of millions of FieldView-enrolled acres already in the fold.
Yes, it should also be noted Bayer probably saw value in getting its hands on Monsanto’s long awaited Roundup Ready 2 Xtend dicamba-tolerant cropping system, especially with now rival DowDuPont having the Enlist 2,4-D tolerant cropping system looking ready to go in 2017, but I can’t imagine Bayer is too keen on picking up Monsanto’s under attack glyphosate business, what with Europe looking like it will outright ban the use of the controversial herbicide and its future in the U.S. and other parts of the world looking pretty damn bleak as well.
Then there’s just the general state of crop protection regulatory affairs in the world today.
One can’t help but have the feeling that perhaps Monsanto was growing a bit tired of playing the regulatory approval politics game (RR2Xtend, for example, has been delayed more times than this author cares to count, costing the St. Louis-based biotech giant millions in lost potential revenues with each label approval delay – much to the delight of its many critics) and saw a virtually painless way out for its shareholders in letting Bayer take the reins.
I mean, read between the lines here. What does that really say about the current state of regulatory in crop protection today that Monsanto was willing to jump ship before seeing its newest golden boy product, RR2Xtend, completely through to market, after all of the money and R&D resources Monsanto poured into that system’s development over the years? And lets not forget that we’ve noted before on these very pages that many believe Monsanto had unofficially begun to view itself as more of an ag tech outfit in recent years.
So while many will look at this Bayer-Monsanto deal as a seed traits play for the German pharmaceutical giant, it’s pretty obvious that Bayer realizes the future of agriculture (and making money in agriculture) probably isn’t going to be in bringing new hard chemistries to market going forward, but in digital farming and the crunching of Big Data analytics and climate and nitrogen modeling applications, saw Syngenta fall flat on its face trying to make a similar move for Monsanto and Climate Corp. last year, took a long, hard look at its own portfolio (or lack thereof in the precision space), and decided it was time to make a bold move to ensure its future in the coming digital agriculture landscape.
Can’t really blame them.