Reported by James Fleming (Agronomist – Pursehouse Rural Coonabarabran)
The Bayer and AgLink study tour hosted two groups, with a Horticulture group touring Spain and Germany and a separate Broadacre group of which I was part. The broadacre group visited sites from Cologne to Munich in Germany. Both groups combined in Cologne for two days to inspect the Bayer facilities situated there, before parting ways once more.
Our Broadacre tour group consisted of eleven individuals from AgLink group members across Australia. We were lead by an exceptional team comprising of Ben Thompson, Bayer National Key Account Manager, and Dale Skepper, formally AgLink Commercial Manager (Seed, RD&E and Agronomy). Finally, we can’t forget Judith Imnadze-Wehr, our organiser, interpreter and tour guide. A huge thanks goes to Judith for ensuing our trip ran smoothly.
A ‘double chaotic’ system where nobody, except the computer, knows the location of each vial of compound; a little like my kitchen cupboards I suppose.
The Sydney contingent of the Broadacre group departed Sydney on the evening of Saturday 19th October. After three flights and factoring in the time difference, we arrived in Cologne, Germany, Sunday afternoon; bright eyed ad bushy tailed. Whilst on a visit to Bruhl Castle, late in the day, the jet lag began to kick in; it is safe to say the bright eyes faded, our bushy tails dropped and bed was calling our name.
Day one: Monday morning we travelled from Cologne to the Bayer Ag Crop Science Division Headquarters in Monheim am Rhein. What a fantastic opportunity to discuss product portfolio, new chemistry, shaping the future of Canola, stewardship and digital platforms with Bayer’s global leads. It was also interesting to hear about Bayer’s future investment into integrated weed management.
We the moved on to an inspection of Bayer’s fully automated robotic chemical compound library / logistics centre; what an eye opener. Here they use a ‘double chaotic’ system, where nobody, except the computer, knows the location of each vial of compound, a little like my kitchen cupboards I suppose! It stores around 8million vials, with around 5million vials currently stored. The complex system supplies the required compounds at the ordered concentrations within three days. Previously, under human extraction and supply, the process would take around three weeks.
Next up, an inspection of Bayer’s Application Tecnology section. One interesting fact we learned on this particular trip; sprayers in Germany must be calibrated and re-certified every three years.
The day ended with a tour and dinner at Bay Arena soccer stadium.
Moving on, we visited Forward Farm, a fully operational and demonstration farm located at Deelen, just outside of Cologne. Here organised groups can visit and use the facility to develop an understanding of the production systems used by local farmers who grow a range of crops, including potatoes.
After, we visited Chempark, at Dormagen, a production planning and logistics set up which includes the formulation of active ingredient plant for crop protection products. The 360ha site was established around 1917 and today makes 23 active ingredients, 10 immediates and 14 formulations. The plant produces mostly fungicides, insecticides and some herbicides.
The busy days continued with a visit to Bay Komm, an agricultural education centre. This fantastic teaching facility educates future generations and the uninformed on some of the science involved in agriculture across the board. The histroy of Bayer was also displayed and discussed here. What a great resource for AgScience!
Towards the end of the trip we visited a 500ga farm located near Hailafing, south of Munich. Here they grow a range of crops including wheat, barley, canola and Maize.
Final visit on the agenda was to a distributor located near Thann, east of Munich, which included a grain receval centre on site. It was interesting to see and compare their business structure and operations.
A major issue continually raised over the trip by the local farmers we spoke to was the low number of farmers in the industry compared to the overall German population, just 3%. However many decisions made for the industry remain highly political and continue to have a substantial effect on the trends of the industry.
Overall, the trip was jampacked and balanced out with some good old sightseeing of traditional tourist sights alongside the places of agricultural interest to our group.
I would like that thank Ben, Scott, Judith, Bayer and AgLink for hosting the trip. It was a great opportunity.