Bayer’s CropScience division works on pest control through chemicals, and on developing new genetic traits. Each of these needs to be thoroughly tested according to various government regulations around the world, and against Bayer’s stewardship standards to be sure nothing released during growing or testing could harm the environment.
The Complexity of Global Field Research and Testing
This testing requires extensive field trials in 12 countries, carried out by various field trial researchers – sometimes Bayer employees, sometimes external cooperators.
The complexity of the process initially caused confusion and extra manpower hours due to the fact that field trial researchers worked on various devices and that compliance for field trials looks different in each country – Argentina requires the collection of more data than Canada, for example. The fact that regulations change from one year to the next only added to the complexity.
Additionally, each process and trial, from planting onward, required separate documentation and reporting, generally within 7 days. Information relating to what was planted, how much and where, along with other details meant tight record keeping and easy transmission were top priorities.
The company needed a solution that would meet the individual needs of each company, that could work on a variety of devices, that could work well with other solutions and that could be adapted regularly and simply.
Enter Zerion Solutions
Using Zerion’s FormBuilder, Bayer CropScience was able to integrate remote data entry for field trials with a .net web application for managing field data.
This allowed Bayer to create a bring your own device model that allowed field researchers to use their own devices – either Android or iOS. Each field trial researcher is equipped with specific forms for planting, observations, harvest, trial terminations and so on, even including field monitoring after a trial’s completion to track anything that grows from seeds that may have been left behind.
Field auditors are provided with separate forms to inspect and track the accuracy of research at the field level, to monitor ongoing conditions and to suggest modifications as necessary.
When data moves past this point, it is reviewed in a GFC workbench by compliance officers. Using the Zerion solution, officers can view all data and send back anything that looks wrong for explanation or remedy.
At the completion of the process, all datapoints can be turned into reports, which are available in separate dashboards for each trial and country for simple processing. The FormBuilder API provides tools that make it easy to visualize data throughout the process.
Additionally, information relating to each trial is stored and updated regularly. This assists in the government permit application process. Permits are added to project “notebooks” that are assigned to specific field trial researchers – assigned individually based on role. These notebooks become FormBuilder forms that contain all necessary information for a given trial. This process is made possible by using key values to assign permissions to specific users to be sure each user is fully equipped to perform his or her role without giving too much information away.
From a system architecture standpoint, field researchers use FormBuidler’s app on mobile devices to collect data which is sent through Zerion’s cloud to a web server/database in Pittsburgh, where it is funneled into a separate landscape reporting system. This is all made possible by an automated workflow that presents country by country dashboards with real-time results.
Bayer CropScience is especially impressed with the functionality of FormBuilder: “We have all the flexibility we want to have for creating forms and collecting data,” explains Reed.
Overall Assessment: Great Success
Overall, Bayer CropScience is happy with the results they have seen using Zerion’s solutions, including the responsiveness of the Zerion team. The company has seen a reduction in both maintenance and implementation costs that will continue as time goes on. They are pleased with the availability of simple processes that work around the world.
The company uses the system to continually track progress, to make adjustments as necessary to keep processes moving as smooth as possible. They have even begun to white label their solution for additional functionality in the future.
About the Author
Mark Shepherd-Smith has spent a significant part of his 20+ year career focused on the effective use of IT in construction. Working with mobile devices has shown promise, but was often difficult to implement in the industry. With the introduction of iPad technology in 2010, Mark founded a company to develop a daily diary app; the solution was eventually adopted and internalised by Seymour Whyte in 2014. Following this, Mark joined Seymour Whyte as an Information Systems Manager to manage the ‘Fully Integrated, Fully Mobile’ vision.