In-depth: Caroline Schmitt at Adama Agricultural Solutions

by Jessica Ramesh

Caroline Schmitt is Digital Lead, Global Marketing at Adama Agricultural Solutions. We caught up with Caroline to hear about the project, smart agriculture, and what B2B can learn from B2C

‘Three Things to Consider When Undertaking a Globalised Digital Project’ is the title of your presentation. Can you give us an idea of what to expect?

We’ll be discussing the roll-out of Adama’s global digital strategy. Adama’s undergone a major global rebrand since April this year and digital has been a very important component in that process. A rebrand like this takes time because you need to look at everything from the packaging upwards. The website is one of the first proof-points we have and, of course, it needs to be live by the time your products are on the shelf. So we’ll be talking about what to take into account before, during and after a global rebrand.

Were there any specific issues you encountered during the project?

Our organisation was quite fragmented. We had different names in different countries because we’d grown, sometimes by acquisition. We had to migrate about 50 countries to a single name and global brand. Before we started we had 28 independent websites, all running on different systems and platforms and at different levels of maturity. All 28 of those websites had to be brought in house and we also had to ensure every country was equipped with its own site, which hadn’t been the case before. What we were actually doing was launching 49 websites in just six months.

Obviously we didn’t switch them all on at once. The corporate brand launch was on 2 April. Then we gave the countries six months to complete their local brand launches. These were very aggressive timelines. Beforehand we did a thorough gap analysis: which countries had websites? What were they addressing? How mature were they in their local markets? Then we looked at the full user experience, worked on the design and the overall digital strategy.

Once we had a clear idea of the strategy, we began to think about the platforms. That’s when the selection process began and we chose Building Blocks as our partner, largely because of their track-record of success in implementing global roll-outs with aggressive timelines. Together with Buildling Blocks, we’re now building not just the site but a global knowledge hub which will contain all the content we push on the website over the next year.

‘Smart agriculture’ is term applied to Adama’s sector. Can you explain what that means and what its practice involves?

We hear a lot about smart factories and smart cities, but we don’t tend to talk about smart agriculture, yet the same principles apply. It’s about how we use digital technology, data and intelligence to do better agriculture. ‘Smart agriculture’ is not to be confused with ‘ag-tech’, which refers to things like very advanced tractors which make use of GPS. Smart agriculture asks how we can use the intelligence that comes from digital technology to put less in the ground and get more out of it. By 2050 it’s estimated that there’ll be nine billion people to feed on the planet. If we’re going to meet that need agriculture has to be sustainable, and we’re going to have to be smarter, particularly when it comes to issues like crop protection.

That means using the right information, having the right tools and employing digital technology, as we’re already doing in factories and cities. To give you an example, imagine you have a sensor out in the field monitoring humidity and crop growth. You can connect that data with satellite information, then couple it with information gathered from the grower. By bringing those data-sets together you can make smarter decisions to help improve crops and yield.

At the moment, in order to protect a crop you’ll generally spray the whole field. That’s the simplest way to do it. But in the future you’ll be able to use analytics so you only need to spray one square metre. You’ll know exactly where the problem is before it starts propagating across the rest of the crop. You’ll put fewer chemicals in the ground and stop problems before they start.

What are some of the specific challenges and opportunities facing Adama in the short to medium term?

To take the opportunities first: what a global rebrand provides is the chance to start completely afresh, which is a luxury very few companies have today. We can lay the foundations for something scalable and global. That should help us deliver a clear strategy and vision for the next three to five years.

The challenges might involve change management and a changing culture. In the past our industry – our whole sector – has not been intrinsically digital. Sure, everyone’s got a website and some companies have apps, but there’s not been that strong a focus on digital in agriculture. That means there’s going to be a lot of change which we and our customers need to handle and absorb.

More broadly, I’ve worked in B2B and B2C. In B2C, digital has evolved incredibly fast. Consumers have become very savvy very quickly. Digital is now part of our daily lives and our decision-making processes. But in B2B that’s less so. In our private lives, we use digital to book our flights, make purchases and so on. A consumers we expect a seamless, omnichannel experience. Then we go back to work and our daily lives are built around Excel. There’s a big gap between our experience of digital as consumers and our experience of digital as business professionals. Is it too much of a culture shock to try to bring something of the B2C experience to your B2B business?