Digitized sugar beet advisory system integrates the power of low-code with big data

The technology will transform 9,000 European growers into ‘Smart’ farmers, say company officials.

Mendix, a Siemens business and a global leader in “low-code” platform, and Cosun Beet Company (formerly Suiker Unie), a European sugar beet processor, are helping their 9,000 cooperative growers optimize agricultural yields from their beet fields with a Beet Advisory System (BAS). BAS combines information from Cosun Beet Company’s own database with data supplied by the growers, public sources, sensor information, and observations of the field service employees to give each farmer customized advice.

“Low code” is a user-friendly way for ag companies to create their own apps for their customers, say company officials. They can customize the apps in-house (vs. hiring a developer company to hard-code an app) for each customer based on the data they can collect via sensors and imagery in the field. More crops may fit this model so there’s potential for use in the United States, say company officials. 

Cosun Beet Company officials say the firm seeks to stimulate integrated crop management and minimize the use of pesticides while also generating the highest possible yield per acre. Company officials say this ensures efficient use of scarce natural resources that are sustainably used to produce food, energy, and bio-chemicals.

BAS is an innovative solution that flags timely actions and helpful data for growers to use, say company officials. Via the application, users receive information on the best seed varieties, storage methods, crop rotation, fertilizers, specific pest and diseases risks, tips on preventing leaf mold, and other means of crop protection. As more data is collected, the quality of the platform’s decision-making capabilities and targeted advice steadily increases.

Combining Data Sources for Tailor-made Advice

Cosun Beet Company developed BAS in collaboration with Conclusion, SAP, and Mendix. The advantage of working with the low-code platform from Mendix is that it enables IT teams to work very experimentally and work on iterative solutions, say company officials. 

“It doesn’t cost a lot of effort to go live and follow-up adjustments can be made very quickly,” said Wim Hummel, manager of ICT at Cosun Beet Company, in a company news release. A specific insect tracking component of BAS, called the “Monitor Aphids,” is an example of the quick development possibilities of working with low-code. 

“There were only 10 days between the initial discussion and the application going live. This is extremely fast for innovation in the agricultural sector,” said Hummel in a company news release. “After making the Monitor Aphids available online, we were contacted by an impressed competitor from Sweden.”

By collecting and analyzing geo-specific information and making it seamlessly available to the individual grower, BAS is pioneering the field of “smart farming.” To deliver this level of big data complexity, BAS brings together three data sources in a SAP HANA database. An individual grower provides information to Cosun Beet Company about the agricultural land parcels (polygons) that will be used for growing sugar beets via a system called Unitip. This data is combined with open historical data on soil characteristics and the land’s previously cultivated crops. Farmers receive directions on which beet seed will thrive when planted on specific parcels of land. 

App Launch

During the growing season (February to October), 450 sensors throughout beet fields measure the temperature and the humidity under the leaves. Using a model, the grower receives a prediction of leaf mold risk. Special field employees add in their onsite observations, detailing for instance the presence of lice or other diseases into the BAS platform. Cosun Beet Company is currently testing with a fourth data source: satellite images that monitor the growth and harvest of the sugar beet.

 “Linking these data sources is unique in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, providing individual growers with detailed information on each parcel level via BAS is unparalleled,” said Hummel in a company news release. “Previously, we published a ‘cultivation manual’ with general information about growing, germination, nutrition, and disease control. It was up to the grower to read it and decide whether the information was applicable to his parcels. Now, BAS collects and analyzes the data and provides it easily across different devices, tailored to the individual needs of the growers.” 

“Cosun Beet Company has succeeded in developing a very user-friendly application that combines different data sources and converts them into tailor-made advice for growers,” said Dennis Muller, customer success director at Mendix, in a company news release. “We are pleased that the Mendix platform is the solid foundation for BAS, while also providing enough room for experimentation and the possibility to add other mission-critical components.”


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