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Data Analytics, Robotics Improve Production, Reduce Waste

Ashish Batra, Director, Crop Protection Manufacturing Science and Technology, Corteva Agriscience
Ashish Batra, Director, Crop Protection Manufacturing Science and Technology, Corteva Agriscience

Ashish Batra, Director, Crop Protection Manufacturing Science and Technology, Corteva Agriscience

Farmers around the world look to Corteva Agriscience for the complete input portfolio in the industry, including a robust pipeline of active chemistry and technologies and some of the most recognized brands in agricultural seed.

  By using commercially available as well as proprietary robotics, high throughput and advanced data management, analysis, and visualization tools, we streamline our process for identifying bacterial strains that look promising and should be advanced to the next stage of manufacturing 

Advances in crop protection manufacturing technology are instrumental in enabling our efforts to fulfill Corteva’s purpose: “to enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come.” Data analytics and robotics together are enabling the transformation of crop protection products’ development and manufacture.

For examples, our strain-improvement program relies extensively on data analytics. Each year we create and evaluate hundreds of thousands of bacterial strains that are used to improve the productivity of our naturally derived insect management products obtained by fermentation. By using commercially available as well as proprietary robotics, high throughput and advanced data management, analysis, and visualization tools, we streamline our process for identifying bacterial strains that look promising and should be advanced to the next stage of manufacturing.

At the production scale, advanced data analytic techniques are enabling further recipe optimization. The impact of these technological advancements is significant. With very little capital investment, we have increased the overall production capacity for a product by more than 100%, significantly reducing waste generation, increasing raw material utilization, and yield and developing a more sustainable process.

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Advances in big data also benefit traditional chemical and electrochemical processes, through process optimization, as well as identification and consistent manufacture of the golden batch. Recent advances in continuous flow or flow technologies is allowing conversion of batch processes— especially those that involve highly hazardous materials or cryogenic conditions—to be converted to safer, more energy-efficient, less capital-intensive operations that are more sustainable.

Additive printing, also known as 3D printing, is improving the process for prototyping of new package designs. With 3D printing, packaging teams can be more agile and bring to market faster ergonomically designed, lighter weight sustainable designs using alternate construction materials. Maintenance and laboratory design shops also find great utility in 3D printing.

Uses include printing 3D agitator designs for optimizing reactor performance in the pilot and scale-up labs and printing replacement parts that may not be readily available, thereby extending the life of the equipment that otherwise might end up in salvage yards.

Our packaging lines, as well of others in our industry in key geographies, employ Track, Trace, and Authenticate (TTA) Technologies, which enable a full product or package traceability; ensuring customers receive an authentic product. Developments in packaging machinery design with robust clean in place technologies for fillers and vision systems for cappers are allowing for faster changeovers between products, less cleaning waste generation and packages that consistently meet and exceed consumer expectations.

One of the key goals within our manufacturing organization and, in general, our industry is to minimize unplanned events and enhance productivity and quality.

Using robots to enter and clean confined spaces enhances both productivity and human safety. We have piloted this in several locations to reduce the need for people to enter confined space within the next several years. Drones are useful for inspecting areas that would previously require extensive scaffolding to be built; this minimizes turnaround times and human risk. As an augmented reality, virtual reality and connected worker tools continue to become more and more affordable. Instant access to the experts’ knowledge and expertise, even in some of the remotest manufacturing locations in the world, are becoming a reality. The way we train, onboard, and accelerate the learning curve of our workforce is also evolving. Advanced analytics and machine learning will continue to be deployed for early detection and correction of plant upsets, preventing unplanned events.

These examples illustrate a small portion of how Corteva Agriscience is leveraging data analytics and robotics throughout the company. From evaluating the DNA of seed traits to deploying advanced UAV technology in seed research plots, Corteva scientists and agronomists embrace technology. Data collected from drones informs our seed production, enabling agronomists and contract seed growers to make timely decisions impacting seed yields and quality. Data scientists participate in interdisciplinary teams of agriculture scientists, remote sensing specialists and mathematicians to develop novel prediction methods that integrate multiple sources of information that is used not only in our own seed production but also to provide digital solutions for farmers.

Collaborations and partnerships across the entire value chain will be needed to fully unlock the value that advances in manufacturing technology can deliver in our industry. The future is very bright for those that will embrace this transformation, challenge existing paradigms, and lead the charge.

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