Anheuser Busch (AB) InBev, a household name in beer production, and Sentera, a leader in digital agriculture, announced in late 2019 they will be launching a one-of-a-kind, large scale partnership that will affect AB InBev growers all over North America.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Sentera is a data and analytics company, providing growers with insight, which in turn allows them to make better farm management decisions. Using a combination of drone-based sensors, satellite-based sensors, in-ground sensors and weather data, Sentera’s technology has the ability to help farmers detect disease and nutritional issues in addition to forecasting yields.
“We are an adjunct data source that provides the grower and their trusted crop advisor with better data, faster and with better coverage to help them make optimal decisions for their farmlands,” said Eric Taipale, CEO at Sentera.
AB InBev’s relationship with Sentera truly began about three years ago, Taipale explained. At that time, agronomists at AB InBev were working on developing a strain of barley that would be more resistant to lodging. AB InBev agronomists turned to Sentera in search of data analytics help.
“AB InBev asked us if we could build a tool that could detect what percentage of barley had lodged in a field, and could we do this at a pretty significant scale,” Taipale stated.
Sentera was up for the challenge. Together the two companies built the capability and it really worked well. That first success led to Sentera developing other analytical products that were being used inside of AB InBev.
Also happening at this time, AB InBev had launched a sustainability initiative. The company committed to providing AB InBev growers with better access to agronomic insights they could use on their own individual farms. This ideology was the impetus behind AB InBev’s platform, SmartBarley.
Sentera came on board to provide AB InBev growers with the same digital agronomic insights the company has been using internally for some time.
With a launch set for March 2020, this partnership will initially be focused on the 10,000 plus AB InBev growers in North America who already have some sophisticated technical infrastructure in place. However, a three-year global roll-out has been planned.
“Whether it’s a small holder in Uganda or a large grower in Montana, they will all have access to this digital platform, courtesy of AB InBev,” Taipale said.
This level of partnership is exciting, Taipale explains, because digital agriculture technology often faces a barrier.
“It’s a ‘chicken or the egg’ kind of scenario. Until there are enough users, there isn’t a market for these kinds of analytical insights and until there are enough analytical insights, there aren’t enough supportive users. AB InBev, due to the sheer size of their grower network, can bring both,” he said.
As a leader in agronomic technology, Sentera is no stranger to large-scale partnerships. Even so, Taipale says he is not aware of any other partnership out there that touches this many individual growers through a single product family.
Its hard to find a loser in this arrangement. Sentera’s digital agronomics will be provided to AB InBev growers free of charge. Access to this kind of technology will offer growers the ability to optimize inputs, therefore increasing profits, while simultaneously having a land stewardship component. As the buyer, AB InBev will have a premium, reliable supply chain.