Climate 21

Reducing agriculture's footprint - a Chat with BayWa CIO Tobias Fausch

June 02, 2021 Tom Raftery / Tobias Fausch Season 1 Episode 27
Climate 21
Reducing agriculture's footprint - a Chat with BayWa CIO Tobias Fausch
Show Notes Transcript

Bavarian agtech company BayWa AG was recognised recently as one of the Top 50 Global Sustainability and Climate Leaders for all the work they do not just reducing their own emissions, but crucially helping their customers in the agriculture space to reduce their emissions too.   

I reached out to their CIO, Tobias Fausch to invite him to come on the podcast to talk about some of their many extremely innovative initiatives aimed squarely at emissions reductions.

He readily agreed and we had a fascinating conversation, I learned loads. I hope you enjoy it too.

If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - feel free to leave me a voice message over on my SpeakPipe page, head on over to the Climate 21 Podcast Forum, 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).

And if you want to know more about any of SAP's Sustainability solutions, head on over to www.sap.com/sustainability and if you liked this show, please don't forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover the show. Thanks.

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

Music credit - Intro and Outro music for this podcast was composed, played and produced by my daughter Luna Juniper

Tobias Fausch:

Therefore, if you can use all these technologies, it will help you to really do the most out of your inputs and get the most of your crops. And that ultimately saves money. It gives you more earnings, and it's also sustainable. So it's really a win win situation for everyone.

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening wherever you are in the world. This is the climate 21 podcast, the number one podcast showcasing best practices and climate emissions reductions. And I'm your host, global Vice President for SAP. Tom Raftery. Clemmer 21 is the name of an initiative by SAP to allow our customers calculate, report and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In this climate 21 podcast, I will showcase best practices and thought leadership by SAP, by our customers, by our partners and by our competitors if their game in climate emissions reductions. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast in your podcast app of choice to be sure you don't miss any episodes. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the climate 21 podcast. My name is Tom Raftery with SAP and with me on the show today, I have my special guest, Tobias. Tobias, would you like to introduce yourself? Yes, sure.

Tobias Fausch:

First of all, thanks for having me, Tom. My name is Silvia sefolosha. I'm the CIO of Baba.

Tom Raftery:

okay to be, can you? Well, first of all, I should explain to people listening that we have invited you onto the podcast, because both have been recognized as one of the 50 sustainability and climate leaders worldwide. And congratulations on that. But for for people who are listening, who might not have heard of bio, could you explain who or what by that is?

Tobias Fausch:

Yes, of course, well, actually, by VA typically is known beyond Bavaria in Germany. So I think it really makes sense to explain who by by is because actually, we're a global company. So some 22,000 employees, we have 17 billion turnover. And we are active in the renewable energy sector in agriculture, as well as building materials.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and I mean, that sounds like a quite diverse and unrelated portfolio. Can you explain where that portfolio comes from? What's the kind of thinking behind such diverse materials?

Tobias Fausch:

Well, I think one of the things where all of them actually meet is sustainability. Renewable Energy is a hot topic of photovoltaic, power plants, wind, wind, energy, power plants, they all lead to sustainable to more sustainability in the world. Agriculture, this is basically the foundation, the history of biver, it started as an agricultural company. And in a sense, building materials came somewhere in between it was, if you have a farmer, he will need the building and such. And so that just added to the business,

Tom Raftery:

okay. And sustainability is obviously important to biver, or you wouldn't have been recognized as one of the 50 climate leaders. Why is it important?

Tobias Fausch:

If you look at the climate, you will see that it's recognized that the climate actually changes, it gets warmer and warmer. And if you want to fight that, you need to become more sustainable. So in that sense, it's essential for the whole world that we become more sustainable. And I think you can see that if you look at what most companies nowadays, do they want to become Climate Neutral by 2030 or so.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and is it your aim to just become Climate Neutral yourselves? Or is it your aim to help your customers become Climate Neutral? And if the second, how are you going about that?

Tobias Fausch:

Well, this is actually where I think, differs from other companies, we will not only become Climate Neutral ourselves, we will also help our customers to become Climate Neutral. First of all, renewable energy, per se, is a climate Council for the climate. So that's a very important task that we do, we plan to add another 10 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025, for example, but we also want to reduce our own greenhouse gases by 22%. And the same goes for the energy consumption. So we're doing a lot on our end. But also, and especially if you look beyond renewable energy, if you look into agriculture, agriculture is also a very big industry. And here, you have a lot of greenhouse gases are being produced. If you become more sustainable agriculture, this also helps climate

Tom Raftery:

Sure, sure, sure, sure. And I mean, can you talk about some of the ways you're helping your customers to reduce their carbon footprint?

Tobias Fausch:

Actually, we have a lot going on there. One of the most interesting ones to start with is agri PV. So we have solar panels, which are installed on the field. So you have a dual use, on the one hand, you can grow your crops. On the other hand, you have solar panels above your crop. Now, apart from producing energy, you do more to the plants, because these are very specific solar panels, which are designed that they let pass it through certain wavelengths. And these wavelengths are important for the growth of the plants. So on the one hand, you have a shelter, you can't have too much sun, but you have the right frequencies showing up at the plant so it can grow. And you also can shelter from hail. So you really have a dual use by having the solar panels above the crops.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and I saw some of that on video, these solar panels are up on stilts, three or four meters above the crops, which is enough for farm vehicles to travel underneath them safely. And also, I imagine there's a reduction in the amount of evaporation of water.

Tobias Fausch:

Yes, yeah, these effects also, but also you can shelter from too much water, you can have kind of an umbrella. So it really is it's not really a greenhouse that you have, because it's still in the open. But it does have quite a few effects of that as well. That's correct. Yes.

Tom Raftery:

Super, super, super. And you're working with satellite imagery as well. Can you tell me a little bit about what you're doing with satellite imagery? Why is that important?

Tobias Fausch:

satellites are very important, because basically, you have three layers at which you can look at plants, you can have a robot or yourself just being on the ground. If you go a little high, you could have a drone or a plane flying above your crop here, or the furthest away, you could have a satellite. Now, the farther away you are, actually, the cheaper the information gets, a satellite will pass over the same patch of land every five days of salt, okay, at least. So you get a picture every five days. At least if you don't have clouds, it takes a satellite 90 minutes to circle the earth. So you usually get a lot of pictures. And with these pictures, you can start working with a root resolution of 10 by 10 meters. And these pictures are very helpful, because they tell you a lot about what's going on on the ground, but they're cheap. So the combination of having a satellite image and the information you can get get out from this is really helpful in becoming more sustainable. Let me explain that a little if you have the satellite picture, you can see whether the fields you have a homogeneous and in fact there or not. Now, if a field is not homogeneous, the plants will not grow equally, because it depends on the quality of the land they are growing on. If you have the satellite image, you can tell your machinery where to do what. And you can use that for seeding, especially for maize. If the earth is very good, you can plant the seeds a lot closer than if it's not so good. So you can really optimize the number of seeds you need to use. And you also optimize the crop you get because you have the right density of plants right? Now, you can do more, because from the satellite picture, you can also see whether the plant has enough water. What we have developed is a growth model for plants. Okay, so we actually calculate the growth of plant above ground and below ground. And because of that growth model, we also know when does the plant need nutrients? So when do you need to fertilize? When does it need how much water because everyone knows, if you put too much water into a pot, the flower will actually drown. Yep, so it's not only too little water, it's also too much water, which doesn't help. And therefore, if you can support that by a satellite image, you can do that as a patch specific, you can really do it the right quantity at the right time for the right plant. And with that, we also have a year prediction. So we can predict like six to eight weeks in advance what type of crop we expect. So there's a lot of things that we can do, which on the one hand, help optimize your crop, optimize growth, while minimizing the input and this is such sustainability. And

Tom Raftery:

I understand our I assume in that case, what you guys are doing is you're consuming the satellite data on behalf of the farmers who are your customers, and you have some kind of a platform that they can log in and get information, then based on your platform with the satellite data that you've purchased and run into your, your smart farmer platform, or whatever it is, yeah,

Tobias Fausch:

right, we actually have a model. So if a farmer says this is my field, and I want to have the data, then we collect the data from the satellite we have. And this is also very interesting, what we actually do is we do not interpret the satellite picture, we calculate the satellite picture and compare to the real one. And that way, we can scale whether our model our growth model actually works properly. Because you don't have a picture every minute. So you don't have the real growth, you just have some pictures a couple of days. And the weather might behave a little differently than what you expected in your model. Okay. And therefore, we can calibrate our picture by comparing it to the real picture.

Tom Raftery:

Fascinating. Okay. Okay, so you've got a whole farm management system in that scenario, then is that the case?

Tobias Fausch:

Yes, absolutely. So we can offer services, like we can help them seeding we can help them irrigating, we can offer all the services that the satellite pictures actually allow us to to provide data for.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And crucially, for you guys. When you're doing all these things for your customers, it is sustainability that is front of mind and most of your decisions. Is that is that the case?

Tobias Fausch:

Well, actually, it's sustainability is the ultimate target. And digitalization is one of the means to really get there. Because typically, if you don't have technical means, what you do is putting a little more fertilizer will help putting a little more water will help, but it's too much. And that that is more costly for you. And it's also not sustainable. And therefore, if you can use all these technologies, it will help you to really do the most out of your inputs and get the most of your crops. And that ultimately saves money. It gives you more earnings. And it's also sustainable. So it's really a win win situation for everyone

Tom Raftery:

to Yep. And is this. So he is the business model for this on a subscription basis, or how does it work?

Tobias Fausch:

What we have is we have packages, they start from free just to get to try and see what works all the way to professional packages, which are then for large farms. And there you would have not just a subscription subscription would be the online version, but where you really have some local software that you run, okay,

Tom Raftery:

but you also have a subscription service for people to put flowers on farms to find out the latest.

Tobias Fausch:

That's actually the latest model that we have. And this is an interesting one too. Because essentially what we wanted to do, we wanted to come up with a simple solution where you can really make use of blockchain. Okay, so it's a technology but who's interested in what a blockchain really is, you want to see what can we do with it. So what we decided we want to have a product. And we wanted to have it within six months, because there's a show at the Oktoberfest that should have taken place last year, but you know, the pandemic. So in the end, it didn't happen, right. But we wanted to be ready by the end anyway. So we decided we need to have a simple process or simple processes that we can show blockchain works with. And what we decided is we want to connect people who want to invest in biodiversity with farmers being willing to actually grow flowers to have that biodiversity. So we want to have n people being willing to spend money on biodiversity connect with M farmers, who are ready to to grow flowers. Now, what we have done is, we have a platform, you can log on, you can say I want to invest x euros for this and that farm, you can look at the pictures, you can look at the farmer the description, and then the farmer does not get the money immediately. It's converted, it's stored in tokens, which are tracked in the blockchain. And then when he starts growing, you'll get a fraction of the money. If he shows that the flowers are there, he gets little money. And so we can really split that into multiple chunks that he gets. And the idea is we really want to create With the blockchain, that that happens,

Tom Raftery:

very good, very good. And I mean, the the benefits to that are beyond just that as well, though, because you're not just increasing biodiversity of plant life, you're also increasing biodiversity of pollinators. Correct. So there's a big benefit for the farmers from that, too.

Tobias Fausch:

That's one of the things that we look into if you grow cherries or apples or other sort of fruits. At the time, these trees have flowers, there's a lot of food for insects. And it's just for a couple of days. Now, if you as a human get food for five days a year, you wouldn't survive, nor do the insects. So the number of insects that we have, which are able to pollinate are real and real issue to farmers. And therefore, if we can add these flower fields, we can actually feed these or insects, and they can then pollinate the flowers. Fantastic.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah. And that's great. To a very innovative solution. I gotta say, it's really nice. Speaking of apples, you've also come up with a variety of Apple, which is drought resistant, I

Tobias Fausch:

think, is it? Well, it's more drought resistant than others, of course, you have a lot of water in the app, so you can't really dry it. You're said that's that's our company in New Zealand, p&g developed that Apple with that variety. For apples, climate is a real tricky thing. A couple of years ago, we had a hail just one day of hail destroyed 80% of the crop well, and so if you have just 20% of the crop, and it's not the ideal crop, well, there's not much business you can do. So one of the risks is at the time, the apple trees are flowering, or blossom, you may have, you may have hail storms. The other thing is during the year, because the climate changed so dramatically, you may have a lot of rain, or you may have no rain at all. And to become more resistant for the apples to get away with not having that much water for a longer period of time. Not no water, but less. That's very important for us as a grower.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and I mean, not just yourselves, but you know, anyone who's growing up? Or does this, are you selling these seeds to other farmers as well?

Tobias Fausch:

Yes, we also, these varieties are also offered to others in the franchise model.

Tom Raftery:

Fantastic. And I think it's T and G as well, your New Zealand offshoot we've come up with a new form of power generation, or maybe it's not new, but are creating power using waste material, is that correct?

Tobias Fausch:

The waste of tomatoes is being used? Yes, we have bio gas power plants, and all the organic material can be used to actually feed that that bio gas power plant.

Tom Raftery:

Fantastic. And I mean, speaking of renewable energy, then you're also part of re 100 re 100 for people who are unaware, is an organization of companies who source are set targets to source a 100% of their power from renewables, hence, Re 100 SAP is also a member of re 100. But you guys remembers every 100 as well, isn't that correct?

Tobias Fausch:

It's correct. And we are already there since 2020. We source all our energy from renewable sources. But in the end, we have an advantage here because we're one of the large project companies actually developing solar power plants. Yeah,

Tom Raftery:

yeah. You're, you're getting high on your own supply. You were to use an expression from the movie Scarface? I think it is. We're not yet getting high. But But. Okay, super. We're coming towards the end of the podcast. Now Tobias. Is there any question that I haven't asked you that you wish I had? Or is there any any topic we've not come up with that you think it's important for people to be aware of? Well,

Tobias Fausch:

I just would like to go back to the greenhouses for tomatoes, because we have one in a line, which is close to Dubai. And I think it sounds really crazy of growing tomatoes in the desert. But I think it does make a lot of sense also from a sustainability point of view, okay, because if you grow the tomatoes in the desert, and you have a large city nearby, you avoid transport costs. Sure. And transportation, of course, is also creating co2. So that's one of the things and if you see that we can reuse 70% of the water that we need for watering the plants. This is also highly efficient. And water, of course, is one of the things that is which is really scarce. In the desert,

Tom Raftery:

okay, but you're not growing them in the open air, I assume? No, it's a greenhouse. Is it shaded in some way? So they're not in direct sunlight? No, you have to serve grass on top, well must get really hot in their

Tobias Fausch:

greenhouses are pretty warm. In the desert at night, it gets cold. So you really have to take care is not only warmth, it's also cold that you need to take care of.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, Tobias, if people want to know more about yourself, or about Beaver, or any of the things we've discussed on the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?

Tobias Fausch:

Well, first of all, we have our webpage by va.com, where you will have most of the information where you have the key contact persons. And I think that's the best starting point. If not, if you I think my email address is not a secret, and I'm on LinkedIn as well. So this would also be a contact. Perfect,

Tom Raftery:

perfect, Tobias. That's been great. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast today. My pleasure. Thanks a lot. Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks, everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about climate 21, feel free to drop me an email to Tom raftery@sap.com or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you'd like to show please don't forget to subscribe to it in 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.