Harnessing the Power for Analytics for Agriculture - Predictive Models
Caroline Morissette, Digital Transformation, #DataGeek and Business Change Leader, McCain Foods. And Soma, Director Global Agriculture Data & Analytics at McCain Foods, McCain Foods
You likely know McCain for our delicious French Fries and Appetizers. McCain makes one in every 4 French Fries around the world and is a beloved household brand in countries ranging from Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, Australia and India (and many, many more!). What you may be less familiar with is our strong commitment to the environment and ensuring that our products are not only delicious, but planet-friendly, too.
In June 2021, McCain publicly committed to a bold vision: implementing regenerative agricultural practices across all of our potato acreage worldwide by the end of 2030. This vision will require transformation breakthroughs in agronomy practices, at the same time as growers navigate a more uncertain climate. To support growers in making the transition to regenerative agriculture, we are investing in different ways. In November 2022, the Guardian published an article about a range of new technologies being tested at our Farm of the Future in New Brunswick, Canada with a focus on cover crops, controlled traffic, rotational livestock grazing and more. A second Farm of the Future was announced for South Africa where we will start testing the portability of working ideas in a very different climate. To provide similar insights, we are launching Innovation hub farms in Manitoba, Idaho and Washington in partnership with local farmers to trial priority regenerative practices
McCain is also investing in ground-breaking R&D in Data & Analytics to support our commitments in Regenerative Agriculture. In July 2022, McCain acquired a Satellite imagery start-up, called Predictive crop Intelligence from Resson Aerospace. The capabilities from Predictive crop intelligence AI modelsallow us to monitor farmer’s fields to understand crop development, such as canopy growth (how quickly the potato plant's greenery develops is an indicator of plant health), water stress, nitrogen absorption and more. These indicators allow us to share insights with growers, in effectively near real-time to manage crop development efficiently , translating decades' worth of business knowledge into actionable insights. The goal is to provide growers with data to support decisions they will make throughout the growing season, to drive higher return on investments and reduce the impacts of variable climate.
What McCain is trying to do is use Data & Analytics to turn the odds back to the grower and support continued financial success in growing the world's best potatoes.
In addition to these Satellite crop monitoring descriptive analytics, we are also working on advanced analytics use cases. We are combining satellite data from Predictive Crop Intelligence, as well as other data sources such as soil quality and weather, to build predictive models for yield and potato quality. We had our first working models available for pilot growers in New Brunswick this year and intend to continue to roll out the models in Crop Year 2023. We are also working on a Harvest Optimization model, which looks to combine data from the yield and quality models with grower-specific metrics like harvest capacity, location of the grower's fields, distance between fields, etc. to provide a perspective model on harvest sequence. We believe this model will support growers as the climate evolves (e.g., starting harvest later due to a warmer and longer Fall, or earlier harvest due to predicted early frost).
To support Regenerative Agriculture, these predictive models will form the basis of "digital twins" at an individual grower and field level, where we can work with growers to model yield, quality and overall financial return of Regenerative practices versus steady-state. We will bring data from the Farm of the Future to create data-driven scenarios, and work with growers to customize the models to their unique growing conditions.
Farming has always been a risky business. Farmers are indeed the original gamblers - they invest a huge sum in planting and then wait for what they hope is a winning harvest. Advances in agriculture including crop protection chemicals and now precision harvest have helped to keep the farmer ahead of the game; however, climate change is making this an increasingly uncertain bet. What McCain is trying to do is use Data & Analytics to turn the odds back to the grower and support continued financial success in growing the world's best potatoes.
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