We in agriculture tend to talk about technology companies that don’t understand us and don’t really bother to invest the time and effort to do so. It’s nice every once in a while to talk about those that do. Among these is Airbus, the European aviation giant better known for jetliners and satellites than for production agriculture.
I had a chance at this year’s InfoAg Conference – organized by The Fertilizer Institute in partnership with Meister Media and PrecisionAg® – to catch up with a few U.S. representatives of the company. I had chronicled Airbus’ multiple offerings for global agriculture earlier this year following a visit to their headquarters in Toulouse, France. What’s especially nice to hear since then is that Airbus, like much of its aircraft, continues to be in it for the long haul.
For several years, the company has been working on a long-term growth plan which includes a heavy concentration on serving the specific needs of key vertical markets. Airbus thought long and hard before investing more deeply in ag. No regrets so far. Agriculture is one of the top three commercial markets for the company’s Intelligence division, says Sky Rubin, who heads up North American ag sales for Airbus Intelligence out of Ft. Collins, CO.
Rubin will join a panel discussion on the topic of imagery at the 2020 PrecisionAg VISION Conference in Seattle, WA.
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AgNeo Is Next Up
Latest in the Airbus line for agriculture is AgNeo. The platform houses a range of data and offers core crop analytics as well as premium analytics through either its Verde API or its permanent crop analysis service. Also part of the package is a “Research Sandbox” developed specifically upon client request when Airbus essentially said to its ag partners: ‘Come to us with something you don’t see in the industry today.’ Now clients can go in and explore to their heart’s content the relationships among a range of datasets including seeding rate, current and historical weather, video imagery from drones, seed variety, soil moisture, current and historical imagery, soil nutrients, and yield data.
Such are the spoils of working partnerships. And because partnerships are the name of the game for Airbus in agriculture – for several years the company has collaborated with Simplot on the latter’s SmartFarm platform – Airbus now also touts its relationship with BayWa, the largest agricultural trader in Europe with a presence across nearly every link in ag’s value chain there. BayWa, interested in leading digital agriculture in Europe, is working with Airbus to shape the evolution of AgNeo’s permanent crop analytics.
Collaboration Is King
Which raises another of agriculture’s complaints about Big Technology: A tendency to take a go-it-alone attitude that essentially says, “my way or the highway.”
Airbus has not taken this tack. If anything it might prefer to fade somewhat into the background and allow its partners to have the stronger voice in ag – or at least to see itself as one important piece in a larger technological picture. It’s an emerging philosophy of collaboration and integration that has compelled us to theme the next VISION Conference as “System of Systems.”
Call it the new face of ag tech: Patience. Commitment. Partnerships. Focus on the bigger, longer-range picture. The new truisms of agriculture are much the same as the old ones. Heck, one might even be tempted to think Airbus had been born in agriculture rather than found its way into it.