The Digital Supply Chain podcast

Using Data to Unlock Insights in the Agricultural Supply Chain - a Chat With Proagrica's Lindsay Suddon

June 14, 2021 Tom Raftery / Lyndsay Suddon Season 1 Episode 139
The Digital Supply Chain podcast
Using Data to Unlock Insights in the Agricultural Supply Chain - a Chat With Proagrica's Lindsay Suddon
Show Notes Transcript

The agriculture and food production supply chains are some of the most complex, least connected, that exist.

To talk about strategies to resolve that I invited Lindsay Suddon to come on the podcast. Lindsay is the Chief Strategy Officer for Progrica - a global provider of independent connectivity and data-driven support solutions for the agriculture and animal health industries.

We had a great conversation about the rise of agricultural data, and how to unlock insights with analytics.

If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - feel free to leave me a voice message over on my SpeakPipe page or just send it to me as a direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn. Audio messages will get played (unless you specifically ask me not to).

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And remember, stay healthy, stay safe, stay sane!

Lindsay Suddon:

where we're going with it is to really take our networks, really apply those workflow solutions, ours and others, and really draw in that data and provide the analytics. And this there's no shortage of opportunity. So I think quite frankly, it's a fantastic industry to be in.

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening wherever you are in the world. This is the digital supply chain podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain. And I'm your host, global vice president of SAP. Tom Raftery. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the digital supply chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery with SAP and with me on the show today I have my special guest, Lindsay. Lindsay, would you like to introduce yourself?

Lindsay Suddon:

Thanks very much, Tom. Very happy to be here. My name is Lindsay Sutton, and I'm the Chief Strategy Officer for Parag Rekha. And very quickly what progress is, is it's it's a business that international in its in its reach. And what we do is we serve the agriculture and the animal health industry, various segments within that industry that can talk more about later with, with data solutions, essentially, data enabled solutions have connectivity, and a variety of decision support tools, and data analytics, and to really help them improve efficiency and engagement and visibility and ultimately, increase the the effectiveness and the ultimate safety of the agri food supply chain. Cool, cool.

Tom Raftery:

Now, Lindsey, you know, you can tell from my accent, as many people can I'm sure that I'm originally from Ireland. My father had an interest in a farm he would eat with a quarter owner of a farm. All my family come from farms, I grew up around farms. You know, when you think of agriculture, you don't necessarily or I don't anyway, necessarily think about connectivity about data about computers, even, although I'm sure that's changed an awful lot since my time back in Ireland on farms. But tell me what, what's the status of farms and technology today?

Lindsay Suddon:

Well, you're quite right, the focus is is on farms, and we get much of our revenue from, from those parts of the agricultural supply chain, manufacture the inputs that are ultimately used on farm and distribute those inputs, whether those are crop inputs, or animal health, pharmaceutical, or what have you. We do our commercial relationships with farmers as well, but but it's really all about the farm. Ultimately, everybody, whether it's those selling to farmers, or whether it's those seeking to buy better produce from farmers with better evidence of good production practices, that food processors, the food manufacturers, the food retailers, us, all of these, all of these actors in the supply chain, are waking up increasingly to, to the idea that farms need help, and farms need to be able to understand what good looks like. And that can be about what to put in the ground. You know, agronomic advice, which which chemical products to spray, which not to spray, and when, what seed varieties to use, one of the best and proven animal health outcomes from a particular perhaps vaccination regime that that might be being recommended buy buy buy backs. So so there's there's a lot of data increasingly on farms these days, it's not the farms that I knew when I was a boy, these are farms that have, you know, really sophisticated bits of kit that in themselves are producing, you know, huge amount of data. And I mentioned, you know, earlier some of the input manufacturers who are creating, you know, the crop protection products or the seed varieties, or the animal oil pharmaceuticals, those people also have a lot of data and they have a need for data. And they need to be able to bridge that gap between what goes on on farm and the implications of what goes on on farm for room strategies in terms of product development, and being able to advise properly on the better use of, of growing techniques and animal husbandry techniques as well, which has an implication downstream. So everybody is really recognizing up and down the supply chain, that the more that we're able to make good use of the data which is already being generated. Unfortunately, sitting in silos watch the time for the agenda. The recognizing that the generation of the data is one thing it's it's the transmission of that data and importantly the analysis of that data. It's really good to give them the insights to help farmers do what they want them to do produce better yields, produce healthier, safer food. And that's to the benefit of the farmer to to everyone, including the consumer.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and so is there not a producer of this analytics that the farmers require? Are there? Is that coming are aware of what's the status of that right now?

Lindsay Suddon:

Well, this Yeah. So there are three various data collection tools, if you like, that are being being used around the world, if you're talking about at the farm level, but by the farmer and pro agrico has, has a number of those that we provide the farmers, we've, you know, we've also got the ability to be able to draw in some of that data from from other platforms that we don't necessarily own as well. So, so So the reality is that there might be a proliferation of file management software platforms being used around the world, we we run into the same problem with that, though, is is the interoperability of the systems with other data ingestion and data collected systems, you know, systems just do not talk to each other. And that's a problem, not just, you know, with the variety of things that are being used on farm, but this is a problem for, for trading challenges, and for all sorts of challenges. Right, right, right across the supply chain, really, it's about these disconnected systems. And so one, where we started, really, in terms of our digital expertise, some years ago, was in being able to provide those digital tools for farmers to be able to connect to, to collect that data about what they're doing, and to be able to evidence some what they're doing for regulatory purposes, chiefly, but really, what what what we've extended our vision. And what we've we've we've acquired since then, really is a number of capabilities in businesses, that has allowed us to essentially create a network of data exchange so that we can be quite agnostic about the data sources that we ingest. So that data that is generated in one form format, whether that's, you know, on farm, or whether it's within an E RP system that an input manufacturer might use, or an agricultural retailer, or whatever. And we're able to translate the data that's being generated by a whole number of systems through some of the proprietary technology that we've got, turn it into a lingua franca, if you like, and then send it out to its intended recipient in a language that they will understand. So that really I think for for the first time, we're seeing many instances now of of actors who are enjoying the benefits of being able to understand better what is going on with our trading partners, or even with those that they don't yet trade with, but we'd like to trade with.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and how are you getting the word out there to the different stakeholders that this actually exists and is of benefit to them?

Lindsay Suddon:

Yeah, in different ways for throat different territory. So Parag Rekha. Just just to set the scene we, we've got operations in UK, mainland Europe, large operations in in North America, South America as well, South Africa and Australia. And there are different, there are different solutions that we bring to bear right across the supply chain, and with different emphases in different territories as well. An important and important segment of the industry, I think, is those who advise the farmers. So that's really important for us, even though I said, you know, we started many years ago with direct relationships with farmers, farm management software. I think, for us, it's been quite strategically important to say, Okay, well let's have a look at this ecosystem. And let's have a look at who it is that the farmer actually trusts, who is the trusted adviser of that farm and very often for cropping farming. It's, it's the agronomic advisor. And the agronomic advisor needs needs the, you know, the right digital tools and And increasingly, the right algorithms to be able to intelligently take some of the information that we're collecting like soil sample information, topography information, previous new fields, and planning and planting data and all this kind of stuff and really come up with a recommendation to the farmer in SAS that meets the farmers needs and that could be an ideal than profitability, increasingly also about sustainability and meeting the farmers customer needs downstream. I touched upon food safety, etc. So our strategy has been to really help those who seek to advise the farmer. And that can be at retailers with agronomy divisions, it can be independent agronomist, he can in many cases be some of the input manufacturers themselves seeking direct engagement with farmers, and also some of the downstream food companies as well. We help them with the the intelligent data collecting recommendation tools that allow for those recommendations to take place for that farm data to ultimately come back into that ecosystem. And glad to be self generating in terms of its its ultimate value to the farmers and beyond.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, now, we know that, you know, people in general, are resistant to change, or what, what is the biggest driver for farmers to move to a more data based system? You know, one where they're looking at data and analytics and making decisions based on that, is it you know, the promise of greater yields? or What, what, there isn't a burning platform per se? So why would they move?

Lindsay Suddon:

Yeah, and I think it depends on the type of farming as well. Right. So, so clearly, if you're, if you're rearing animals, there's you know, there's there's there's an animal welfare concern, there's, there's a productivity concern. If you're, if you're raising crops, you he might be row crops that you're doing, you know, many of which go into animal feed, actually, or it could be he could be food crops, you know, some some of the horticultural lettuces and your tomatoes and all the rest of it. And so there are different levels of emphasis in terms of how compliant a farmer might need to be in terms of what they're doing with with those crops. And certainly, there's an increasingly big focus on on making sure that sustainability, water conservation, and, you know, the judicious application of chemicals, of food safety, being an imperative is really important, and especially for fruit crops. So some of those, you know, what we call specialty crops, sometimes essential, essentially, fruit crops where there's a much narrower route between production and consumption. That's that, that that last quite important. So the farmers have really got to prove increasingly, to regulators and regulation declares in different regions of the world to different extents. But the sense of direction is the same. regulation is increasingly demanding, more traceability, right back to the farmer. What is it that they did? How did they grow that food? Is it safe? Did they apply this particular suspect chemical, within a two week window pre harvest, for instance, you know, it's the granularity of the data, which is being seen now, by a lot of farmers as not only important to be precise, in their growing methods in order to maximize the yield, because there's increasing call for evidence from their customers and ultimately, from consumers, there's a lot of consumer pressure as well, to understand how things are grown, then farmers are increasingly seeing, you know, I have the means to collect this data, I can see the means by which that data can be transported, I know that I'm a good actor, and I'm doing the right things, and I want to increasingly do better. That's, that's the, that's the state that they're in that, you know, and, and so we're seeing really a snowball effect in terms of the amount of vehicles which are generating data and the amount of interest and evidence that's being required by those surrounding the poem.

Tom Raftery:

super great. And, you know, who's doing this already?

Lindsay Suddon:

Well, many, I mean, I want to talk about, you know, specific cognisant, there's a whole bunch of different farm types and you know, of every farm type you can think of, you know, they are doing to various degrees. Again, I think I think some of the, some of the some of the imperatives are coming from the food manufacturers that food retailers are so there's some downstream consumer pressure, but that's, that's taking some of that some of that imperative back upstream to the to the advisors to some of the agronomic advisors to the input manufacturers as well. And this is why Tom I, I see I don't like looking at this as a supply network, it's very easy to to look at the supply chain and think oh, okay, it's linear. So you've got, you've got manufacturers have inputs, right, your seeds and your crop protections, that fertilizers then you've got those who sell them the distributed where many buyers and then you've got the farmers and then you've got the food processors and manufacturers and Taylor's moving students, that's that's the linear supply chain. But with data what's, what we're seeing is we're seeing the real emergence of a supply network. And it is, it's essentially, because data can flow in many directions, not just the flow of goods in a linear supply chain, the data can flow in so many directions, that you're seeing some of the requirements that governments and, and some of the companies that are closer to the end consumer, some of those requirements can be not just expressed through a connected network of activity, but they can be measured, they can be understood and measured, and tools in order to measure and recommend against those requirements are created and needs by the advisors and the farmers as well increasingly, and so some of those requirements that were downstream, now I can actually be made real. And so the upstream people who are manufacturing the inputs and go, I see where things are going now I understand that the products I need to create needs to meet the sustainability criteria, the economic advisors know, not just to serve their own customer, which is the Corolla, but they know what it is that they brought needs to do not to satisfy their customers. So there's this increasing digital conversation, Where, where, where requirements and intelligence, and the need for evidence is being shared right across that network. And so that's that's essentially, where we come in, because we are our role here is, is not to provide advice it's to is to enable those who wish to provide advice and have a better informed digital conversations have that difficult conversation take place, it's, it's about our position really, in terms of underpinning that industry through the technology that we have to be able to allow the data to flow with the right workflow tools to be able to enact upon some of the things that need to happen to raise the bar. Does that make sense?

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, it does. So you're kind of like a network layer for agriculture's. Is that it?

Lindsay Suddon:

Yes, I think so. I yeah, I see it as as underpinning, essentially, the industry. I mean, what we're not there to disrupt, we're there to digitally enable. And we're there really to underpin those, those parts of the industry that increasingly want to trade more efficiently, have more visibility, and be able to, to have more evidence so that they can make the right decisions about, you know, who should I be sourcing my my products from? How can I do that, you know, with with more productivity, you know, more efficiency, more profitability? How can I achieve better customer loyalty by being able to evidence that what I'm doing is the right thing for you as a customer? Yeah. So all of those, all of those business imperatives really, are underpinned by the ability to transfer data from Peter to Paul. And that's essentially what our role is,

Tom Raftery:

and who are your customers. So we have a

Lindsay Suddon:

whole range of customers ranging from a lot of water farmers that I mentioned in the first place, very, very strong upstream, we've got, we've created a very large network, actually, that encompasses the input manufacturers that I spoke about earlier. That's, that's the bout to Iser the seeds, the crop protections, the animal health pharmaceutical manufacturers, they are distributors and agri to some really large landscape of distribution there, many of which are connected to our network. So they're able to enjoy some of the some of the transaction data management solutions and the trading efficiencies and that visibility and being able to trade with each other directly. And then of course, we also bridge that gap between the advisors and the farmers as well. So we're really prominent, upstream, with with designs downstream in the near future as well.

Tom Raftery:

So essentially, everyone in the ecosystem is your customer, potentially.

Lindsay Suddon:

Yes, absolutely. Because everything, everything really does. If you boil it all down, it's all about two networks, essentially, when you think about those two sides, but I call it two networks. It's a supply chain network where you've got that trading efficiency and all those data flows and the visibility about you know, all of those trading related decisions that happen. But also one of the things that we did when we acquired an American business back in 2018, is we we acquired a really sophisticated geospatial network, which which essentially has has mapped that at a very granular postcard size level. The the the B geospatial farming landscape starting in North America, but going beyond. So we've got a way for data to not just be generated at a precision to specific place, but we can store layers and layers and layers of data, right? identifiable to subfield level, very subfield level, you see, so you can you can then apply some really interesting analysis to say, Okay, well, has this production method yielded what it was supposed to do? Why not? Is that a factor of soil composition? Is it a factor of application rate? Is it a factual seed volume? How hopefully changing and moving some of these leavers affect profitability? How do I ensure that I retain my, my sustainability criteria, for instance, so being able to be precise, using that geospatial ability that we have, and then clearly, I call this a geospatial network, being able to then harvest that data, to be able to have others engaged with that data on a geospatial basis. That's the key. So it's these two networks, really, it's about trading efficiency, like in terms of one network, and then it's about that geospatial evidencing those two things combined, are really powerful, and underpin a whole bunch of solutions that, you know, we're currently taking to a bunch of different customers.

Tom Raftery:

fascinating to see the agricultural world being digitized as well. Absolutely. I think it's vast. Yeah. And if we just think in terms of climate, it's responsible for close to 30% of climate emissions. So if we can digitize that and make it more efficient, that should have an impact. They're

Lindsay Suddon:

massive. Yes, absolutely. And there's a lot I mean, this, this isn't an overnight task. This, and various countries are various speeds and various segments and various customers, but the direction of travel is is unstoppable. And, you know, when you prove what good looks like, then, you know, you get a really good domino effect as a result, and it's a massively, it's almost silly to call it one one industry, it's, it's a collection of industries, with, you know, but with a common purpose. And just ignoring, you know, cotton things for a moment, you know, for food, mainly, you know, what human consumption or animal consumption, but, but, you know, growing food is of a concern to us all. And so making sure that everybody that's involved in in that food chain, making sure that they have at their disposal, the right tools, the right ability to properly engage with each other and have those proper grown up business discussions, but also the discussions that are increasingly being demanded of them from from governments and, you know, and consumers. I mean, that's, that's something that you cannot achieve, on a point to point basis, where individual companies, you know, only get there by creating their own initiatives, there has to be an independent third party that is able to take this, what in reality is a massively fragmented ecosystem with all the data and bring it all together?

Tom Raftery:

Okay, Lindsay, we're coming towards the end of the podcast. Now, is there any question I've not asked you that you wish I had, or any topic we've not touched on that you think it's important for people to be aware of? Um,

Lindsay Suddon:

no, I think I think we covered much of what I i thought was important to cover, I mean, in terms of what's going on, just to provide greater for agriculture to one side, for a moment that there are a lot of there's there's a lot of key in this in this market in terms of digitization of agriculture, and animal health. And there are a lot of solutions out there. And this is a good thing. This isn't, you know, I'm not doing that as a competitive threat or anything of that sort. Because the industry has recognized that it needs to be able to collect data, it needs to be able to understand what that data means for them. What doesn't happen with these individual solutions, which are usually very good to do one thing is it doesn't have the effect of connecting the industry together and making good sense up and down the supply chain. Now, that's where we come in. We we have solutions that are competitive to some of the other things out there. But I think what makes proglucagon unique is that it's our vision to really underpin the industry, you know, to, to, to go beyond just the narrow focus of some of the solutions that we have, but to be able to be as agnostic as possible, and to and to be able to liaise, which we do With other solutions that we don't own, so that, you know, we're there for, for the industry as a whole. And so all of these things which which are happening are helping the industry go in the right direction. But where we're going with it is to really take on that works, really apply those workflow solutions, ours and others, and really draw in that data and provide the analytics. And this there's no shortage of opportunity. So I think quite frankly, it's a fantastic industry to be in. Super, super

Tom Raftery:

great, Lindsay, that's been really, really interesting. If people want to know more about yourself are pro agrico, or unneeded things we talked about in the podcast today. Where would you have me direct them?

Lindsay Suddon:

You can find me on LinkedIn. So just just search for me there. And I'll get back to you with any questions if you want to engage with me on LinkedIn, or you can go to our website, which is quite simply through agrico.com. That's where you'll get a lot of information and use cases. And if anyone wants to follow up directly with me, I'd be more than happy.

Tom Raftery:

Excellent. Lindsay. Fantastic. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today. Thank you very much, Tom. enjoyed it. Thank you. Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks, everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chains, head on over to sa p.com slash digital supply chain or, or simply drop me an email to Tom Raftery at sa p.com. If you'd like to show, please don't forget to subscribe to it and your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.