G. Bailey Stockdale is CEO of Leaf, a food and agriculture data infrastructure startup. Here he reveals his company’s partnership with Bayer and the impact on its Climate FieldView business so far.
Bayer Crop Science’s digital agriculture arm, Climate, first launched FieldView in 2015 to help growers make data-driven decisions to maximize returns on every acre. This digital farming platform allows growers to collect, store and analyze their data in one place with compatibility across many equipment types and connectivity to multiple farm management software systems.
A key focus for FieldView is to connect partners via an API to give farmers more ways to access and use their data. The goal, they say, is to give the farmers the availability of their data, wherever they want it, whenever they want it.
Growing partnerships with Leaf
But as Bayer started building its ecosystem, the team realized they were spending too much time on the logistics of connecting with their API partners. That cut into the time they could spend doing what they do best: creating a valuable tool for farmers.
Seth Erwin, strategic account lead with Bayer’s Climate FieldView, told me that the sheer amount of time it took to connect to ag partners was the biggest struggle. “Even though we’ve got a pretty large team internally, every partner is a little bit different and everyone’s got other priorities they’re working on as well. It’s not just flipping a switch and turning the connection on to get the data to flow,” he said.
So in 2021, we struck a deal with Bayer to help them onboard their partners faster and more efficiently by asking them to connect via Leaf. We have built tools to help developers easily connect with Climate and other data providers to access user-permissioned field boundaries, application data, planting data, harvest data, and more.
Erwin has told me that the difference in speed of integration is now weeks, not months or years as they were previously. This is in part because it mitigates the need for Bayer to have lengthy conversations with partners about the process as well as involving their engineers; in most cases, we’ve already had those upfront conversations with partners already and our extensive documentation, tutorials, and support team also help.
“From an integration standpoint, it’s been really smooth. Generally, we can tell when they’re starting the actual work because we get notified if there’s a scope missing from their API key for example, and I can work with engineering to get that added quickly and they just report back, ‘hey it’s done, we’re live.’ It’s just been super smooth on both sides, for us and the partners,” highlights Thomas Nesbitt, senior product manager with Bayer’s Climate FieldView team.
Another battle Bayer faced was prioritizing which OEM partner to connect with first, often spending valuable time getting internally aligned. But now, we can help Bayer to run multiple implementations in parallel so the team can get started with new partners faster.
We waited to announce this until it was proven to be working for companies with real-world results. For example, Bayer partners such as Aegro, ARVA Intelligence, Hutchinsons, Landus Cooperative, and Ceres Solutions Cooperative have worked together with Leaf to launch production-ready FieldView integrations in just a few weeks; integrations that include the bi-directional transfer of field boundaries, planted, applied, and harvest data, prescriptions, and more.
“Our teams can now focus on increasing the value that FieldView’s partner program can bring to growers, while Leaf manages the technical aspects, ensuring they have the option and ability to connect to other innovative solutions,” said Sachi Desai, senior director of Digital Partnerships, Bayer Crop Science.
Minimize API maintenance
In the past, Climate was also bogged down with the ongoing maintenance of their own API and their partner’s connections.
“The maintenance piece was where, as we began to scale and started to really get a significant number of partners up, we realized we were not resourced for this. That again led to our decision to create our partnership with Leaf. Previously, it took a tremendous amount of time to get integrated and then there was always a bit of maintenance that seemed to continue to occur,” said Erwin.
Now that Climate works with us to facilitate connections with their partners, they can focus on their core purpose: creating a great tool for farmers to capture, analyze and use data.
“It’s not stuck in our system. Farmers can take the data somewhere else and work with folks that are focusing on different areas. We know farmers have hundreds of decisions to make a day. And, to believe that one system can provide all those solutions, I think isn’t right. The API gives us the ability to enable farmers to use that data across any network for decisions,” he added.
In addition to helping farmers use their data, Climate is also able to provide similar value to ag retailers, although as Nesbitt stressed to me, “From our perspective, grower control is still top on the list. We’ve always committed to growers owning their data and doing with their data what they want to do. But certainly, as retailers have made decisions on whether to dive deep into building their own products, or adopt other products, this need for the interoperability of ag data has certainly grown.”
Since Bayer and Leaf began to work together, engagement on Climate’s platform has skyrocketed from farmers who are actively using Climate FieldView data, according to Erwin who said the team has seen higher traffic going into its APIs since the partnership began and the number of integrated partners has increased. Jeremy Williams, head of Climate and all of Bayer’s digital farming group, has also heard good things and told us “Leaf’s technology is helping us quickly expand the FieldView API ecosystem and the Leaf team is hyper-responsive, organized, and a pleasure to work with.”
At Leaf, we agree that the future of agtech is rooted in partnership. As new ways to realize value from data emerge, there will be increased demand across the industry for accessible, interoperable, and quality data.
“To me, the future vision is this seamless transfer of data. Let farmers send and retrieve data as they want to, and in and out of the systems that they want to use. From a provider or company standpoint, let the data flow,” added Nesbitt.