Dreams of two entrepreneurs to bring digital farming to mainstream!

Innovation and Food Security in Agriculture: A Conversation with Robert Saik

Weiz (Austria), 29th January 2024
Gottfried Pessl, CEO and Founder of Pessl Instruments 

Yesterday, after a pleasant round of golf south of Phoenix on my way towards Cochise, Arizona, a place with 10 farmhouses, 50 horses, 30 dogs and many hundreds of Pivots, I stopped in the cozy winter residence of Robert Saik in Maricopa, to escape from harsh Canadian winter. We had an intense 1,5-hour discussion and I invited him as keynote speaker to our 40th Pessl Instruments anniversary celebration that will happen this June.


We have known each other close to 35 years, met each other back when we were booth young entrepreneurs full of ideology and new ideas on how we could change the world with precision farming. And nothing changed in that aspect. Yesterday’s discussion went on about AI, further with AGI – artificial general intelligence, and about many pending problems we have in the world of agriculture, and how we can help solve them.

During the pandemic it became even more obvious how important food security is. However, over the past two years, this awareness seems to be diminishing, and farmers are increasingly feeling pressured (as seen in the large-scale protests in Germany and France in recent weeks).

What can two “old” or, better put, “experienced” yet independent entrepreneurs do about it? Some might argue, not much, unless significant political support is behind it – right? Let’s dream a bit:

  1. Connected fields with high quality weather data all over the world – 10 million stations fully connected in real-time: AI and decision support systems needs good base data (data in is data out) as the base on optimizing resource allocation, addressing climate change, water conservation, pest and disease management, fertilizer management enhancing crop optimization.
  2. Internet of Things (IoT) in Agriculture and precision weather forecast: IoT-based systems can enhance better logistic automating various agricultural processes, leading to significant improvements in farming activities and reduction of CO2 gases.
  3. AGI assisted Digital Farm Advisors: In many countries, the agriculture schooling system is not existing and very weak. What about that we leapfrog it with Saik´s – VisorPRO – system? The products are existing already, but uptake has been poor.

We had focused on the challenges associated with the widespread adoption of these technologies, such as the need to fully comprehend their impact, integrate them with other evolving technologies, and address the issues that may arise from their use (privacy and security).

Very promising solutions have been initiated by VARDA (of which YARA is a founding investor) in Davos a couple of weeks ago with their Global Field ID systems, which will become a public open good, akin to Wikipedia.

I myself have some, possible radical, answers and solutions, but I will keep those to myself. But I can say this much: one way could be through cross-sector collaboration and public-private partnerships where entrepreneurs take the steering wheel. I am keen to see what the future holds.