The Fertilizer Industry Creates Digital Innovations to Overcome COVID-19
Over the last few years the fertilizer industry has increasingly embraced digitalization. Connected plants are helping to make fertilizer production more sustainable while digital tools monitor and efficiently supply plants’ nutrient needs, reducing losses and improving crop yields and food security. But digital technologies are now also playing important new roles during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
As the fertilizer industry introduces special sanitary measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect their products, many IFA members are coming up with innovative digital solutions. On March 30th, OCP, for example, achieved an impressive technological innovation with the docking and loading of a ship without any human contact between crew and port in Laâyoune, Morocco, part of the company’s wider industrial digitalization project.
OCP has also launched a range of digital initiatives to help in the fight against the pandemic, including using 3D technology to design and produce facial protection equipment for hospital staff, developing a COVID case tracking app, helping farmer cooperatives to digitize their processes and recording educational courses for students to enable distance learning.
Providing digital learning has long been a priority for many fertilizer producers including Nutrien, whose development of a collection of free virtual agriculture-education resources is helping parents, teachers, and students of all ages to bridge the education gap caused by recent school closures.
As with many fertilizer companies that are focusing on online offerings, Nutrien’s well-honed e-commerce and digital capabilities are also proving to be particularly useful during the crisis by helping to ensure that products, services and solutions can continue to be efficiently delivered to farmers.
IFA members are also successfully redesigning tasks to enable the efficient remote running of their facilities and continue to produce fertilizers. At Incitec Pivot, for example, some of the company’s engineers have recently started using video streaming to support maintenance work at manufacturing facilities, which they would normally have to fly out for.
In the face of growing food insecurity caused by COVID-19, fertilizer producers are also using digital technology to help smallholder farmers access fertilizers and agronomic advice. K+S recently helped develop the EzyAgric App, for example, which allows smallholder farmers in Africa to access free extension and advisory services, estimate the inputs such as fertilizers they need, access agricultural loans and connect with buyers.
As IFA members around the world muster their resources in the fight against COVID-19, a wide array of digital solutions and new innovations are proving invaluable. With COVID-19 disruptions and repercussions likely to continue for quite some time, digitalization looks set to be more important than ever for both the fertilizer industry and farmers.