Farm & Food 4.0
International Congress Berlin
Farm & Food 4.0

29. November 2019

The chances of digital transformation

Interview with Michael Horsch

“What I now see coming outdoes everything I have experienced in 40 years”: The founder of Horsch Maschinen GmbH sees four major challenges – and opportunities – for agriculture. What these are, and hoe he defines digital transformation, he explains in the Farm & Food 4.0 interview.

By Sarah Liebigt

Michael Horsch will participate in the workshop regarding digital transformation

Programme 2020
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Farm & Food: Mr. Horsch, thank you very much for the interview. You have been in business with your company for over 30 years. How do you feel about the future of agriculture in Germany?

Michael Horsch: I was not only able to experience many changes in agriculture and arable farming, but also to help shape them through our company to some extent. What I now see coming outdoes everything that I have experienced in 40 years in terms of opportunities and challenges that are now coming for agriculture.

Even large companies like Horsch have to adapt to developments and trends. What trends does Horsch Maschinen itself set?

There are essentially four things at stake here. One is the topic of healthy people. We have to contribute to making people healthier through nutrition. That is our first task. Secondly, we have to take care of the climate. We can make a major contribution, for example by storing carbon in the soil and removing CO2 from the air. Build up humus, etc. The third issue is the environment. We build crop protection sprayers, we are active in conventional agriculture, which means that we contribute to bringing a lot of chemistry to the fields. But this also means that I can have a major influence on how efficiently we do this, how much we can reduce it and how much we can influence the impact on soil, plants and food.

The fourth topic is not digitisation, which has actually already been done. Today we are talking about digital transformation. This is a new level of digitisation. This means that you first have gigantic access to data. We have to develop systems and products to analyse and use this data.

What do you reply to the farmer who asks you how he can best manage digital transformation?

First, I tell him to stay where he is. If he thinks that he already did too much, then he probably noticed that it doesn’t do him much good. I wouldn’t tell the farmer that he has to follow the digital transform. The first premise is to recognize the new challenges that have nothing to do with digitization. But what are concrete approaches in the new digital transformation? Absolute traceability is a very obvious topic. At the very least, consumers want to know that they can trace back their purchased products.

And vice versa, this traceability can be the greatest competitive advantage for us farmers in Germany if we produce food according to certain criteria: It is impossible to distinguish between identical products from abroad that are not produced according to these criteria.

What do you expect from the next Farm & Food? Who do you want to meet?

The nice thing is that you meet everyone: People from the food industry, colleagues from agricultural machinery technology, farmers, NGOs. I like that most of all, to be honest: those who criticise us quite openly, partly rightly so. At Farm & Food, I made contacts that continue to this day; we are in an open dialogue and that is good for both sides.

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