Bayer and Netafim collaborate. What does that mean for the industry?

Bayer and the Israeli company Netafim are joining forces to enhance the application of crop protection products while supplying crops with water. With the new approach called “DripByDrip”, both water and crop protection are distributed throughout the fields via the drip irrigation system and then delivered directly to the roots of the crops. This approach will enable farmers to apply crop protection products in a more targeted way using Netafim’s drip irrigation technology.

The companies plan to launch the system in Mexico by the end of 2017.

The timeline:

  • Targeted application of crop protection products through irrigation system
  • Market launch planned in Mexico by the end of 2017

Netafim CEO Ran Maidan summed up the benefits: “The new combined system is very much in line with our company purpose statement: Grow more with less. Our drip irrigation has been used for many years as a delivery system for applying water and nutrients in a precise and timely manner to the plants’ roots, helping farmers to achieve higher and better crop yields while saving water. Now, farmers will also be able to apply crop protection products in a more targeted way, to reduce their input of crop protection products, and use them in an even more effective and safe way. With DripByDrip, we will provide growers with an innovative, sustainable and easy-to-use solution, which combines technologies and know-how of smart crop protection with smart drip irrigation.”

Bayer and Netafim have already conducted several trials, among others on a farm in

Mexico for peppers, tomatoes, melons and grapes. “The test results showed that yields increased and net revenues rose due to improved quality, and the number of applications was also reduced significantly, in one trial even by 53 percent” said Holger Weckwert, project lead at Bayer. Successful proof-of-concept trials were carried out also in Chile, Israel, Turkey, Spain and Brazil. “Trials in sugarcane in Brazil have even shown a yield increase of 150 percent by using the right amounts of water, fertilizers and crop protection products via drip irrigation, compared to traditional flood irrigation, crop protection and fertilizer usage,“ added Weckwert. The drip irrigation system also demonstrably reduces the use of water. “Tests have shown that water use efficiency is increased to up to 95 percent compared to 40 percent or less with traditional flood irrigation. Drip irrigation also increases the efficiency of fertilizer application, and helps prevent nitrate leaching into ground water, which becomes a serious hazard in agricultural regions that are using overdoses of nitrogen,” observes Dubi Raz, Netafim’s Corporate Agronomy Director.

Open platform project to be expanded

Currently, the system focuses on fruit and vegetable producers in all arid and semi-arid regions of the world, but also crops like cotton, sugarcane and rice are targeted in a second wave. After the joint market launch in Mexico, both companies are working towards expanding the system and customizing it to more countries, crops, pest and diseases.

We interviewed Holger Weckwert, Global Segment Manager at Bayer about the reasons for Bayer to enter the irrigation scene – and the potential benefits for the industry.

AgroPress: From your perspective: How important will smart irrigation be in the near future? Why?

Smart irrigation will be incredibly important in the future, even more so than it already is. Of all the water on Earth’s surface, only two percent is fresh water. Of the available fresh water, 70 percent is used for agriculture. This use is a significant portion of a limited natural resource we rely on in so many different ways. As the population grows and demand for food continues to rise, agriculture cannot sustain this level of consumption. Smart irrigation techniques, such as drip irrigation, are increasingly vital to implement in order to prevent water scarcity.

AgroPress: Why is Bayer entering the scene? How does it relate to your existing agriculture activities? 

At Bayer, we are committed to developing innovations that enable sustainable farming practices. Being efficient with our planet’s resources today is crucial to feeding the next generation.  There are many ways we support sustainability. One example is Bayer ForwardFarming, which is a program that highlights and bolsters sustainable growing techniques currently being implemented by farms across Europe. DripByDrip is yet another tool we can share with growers around the world to ensure their practices are both sustainable and profitable.

AgroPress: Is the future of irrigation related to the future of crop science and crop protection? How?

As we work to implement sustainable practices across agriculture, it is imperative that all members along the production chain do their part to support such a system. In this way the futures of irrigation, crop protection, fertilization and more are each intertwined. Aligning on similar techniques for all of these crop needs help to lower consumption, which results in not only less water usage, but also fewer treatments required to protect crops.

AgroPress: What can we expect from the initiative by Netafim and Bayer? Do you have a timeline?

The initiative is an open platform and in the early phase of development; however, there are plans to expand this project. We invite complementary partners –such as companies specialized in fertilizer application, companies focusing on glasshouse technology, and others–to join us in this mission to support sustainable growing practices, particularly in arid regions of the world. We plan to introduce the new DripByDrip system in Mexico by early 2018.

AgroPress: What are the benefits for growers? In terms of saving money and guaranteeing long-term success: What are the methods and solutions you are looking for?

Growers who adopt the DripByDrip system will quickly benefit from the technology. Introducing water and crop protection directly to the roots of plants creates a much more efficient system. With DripByDrip, plant health can be achieved with fewer crop protection treatments and less water. Using this system will require growers to spend less on consuming resources and allow them to quickly see their return on investment. Additionally, the DripByDip system is safer and less labor-intensive than other application methods for the parts of the growing cycle where foliar applications are substituted with drip applications.

AgroPress: With the new partnership: Do you target your existing clients? New clients? How does Bayer and Netafim plan to make this a sustainable business?

The first phase of the partnership will target fruit and vegetable producers in arid or semi-arid regions where water conservation is of the utmost importance.  The system will first be launched in Mexico with plans to expand in order to benefit additional countries and crops around the world (e.g countries around the Mediterranean basin, Asian countries e.g. Vietnam, China). Once DripByDrip is underway in the market, growers will have multiple options to implement the system, which includes both purchasing and leasing equipment. Furthermore we envision incorporating Digital Farming technologies that will further advance today’s farming practices in a more sustainable way.

AgroPress: People in the industry could argue that the combination of an irrigation system and a crop protection system could create a new dependency: Will the system be open for use with other crop protection products that are not from Bayer?

As mentioned, the DripByDrip initiative is an open platform, and we invite other companies to join our efforts in sustainability. There are many open doors for other companies across the industry to utilize the drip technology and farmers to choose to adopt a variety of elements for their farm.

AgroPress: Do you have any quantitative projections to what extent the system could make irrigation (and crop protection) less costly, more efficient, more sustainable and more controllable? What are your targets for the optimization of the production process?

We are beginning to embark on a long journey for all the possibilities the DripByDrip system holds. The initial findings from trials conducted in Mexico and Chile show very positive trends of a significant return of investment for farmers who implement the system. The benefits go beyond water conservation – farms using DripByDrip have been able to reduce the amount of crop protection products used, amount of diesel fuel while driving tractors and more. We are excited to continue exploring the magnitude of the impact DripByDrip can have and collect additional data as more farmers continue to adopt the system.

AgroPress: For industry members who are interested in this partnership: Who should contact you? Tell us about your crew in the project and contacts. 

The entire Crop Science division has been invested in making DripByDrip a success. For those in the industry looking to join our efforts, they can contact me at

Holger Weckwert

Holger Weckwert has been with Crop Science, a division of Bayer, for 38 years. His work in Strategy & Portfolio Management as a Global Segment Manager and member of the International Crop Team has taken him across the world from South Africa to Ireland. On the International Crop Team, he specialized in fruits, cotton and sugarcane. Now, Weckwert is the Global Lead for the DripByDrip project. He lives in Germany with his wife and three children.