Monsanto bridges genetics and big data analytics by helping farmers leverage technology to improve crops at lower costs and risk. Its precise agricultural platform allows agribusiness to realize Monsanto’s analytical dream field.
Monsanto is at the heart of a growing new field called precision farming. Farmers are facing increasing pressure to grow more food in their existing fields at lower costs and with less environmental impact. However, with 25-30 major decisions they have to make each year for each of their fields, maximizing yield is a challenging task.
Precision Farming is the big data app in agribusiness that also includes cloud and mobile computing. And Monsanto is quickly establishing itself as a leader in the field.
On October 2, Monsanto announced plans to acquire Climate Corp. for $ 930 million. Climate Crop.’s analytics technology delivers local weather statistics to help farmers improve productivity. Data is obtained from third parties that track weather patterns region by region. Climate software collects, manages and analyzes the weather data looking for patterns. The company noted that the company was founded by software engineers and computer scientists from various technology companies, including Google.
Monsanto plans to integrate this technology with its FieldScripts software. FieldScripts help farmers maximize planting by varying the amount of seeds they apply to a patchy soil. The software marries Monsanto’s intelligence on genetically modified hybrids with soil data properties provided by farmers themselves. This data is then mixed with seed and farm data. Then, models are built using a predictable component that produces spatial yield forecasts that drive plant prediction algorithms.
Over a year ago, Monsanto acquired Precision Planting Inc. for $ 250 million. Precision Planting developed software that uses spatial analysis to optimize how far apart and how deep into the seed of the earth should be planted.
So now Monsanto’s integrated farming system platform will be able to tell farmers what crops to plant in each field, exactly where to plant the seeds, when to plant the best time, and how much herbicide and pesticide to spray. The company claims it can improve yield by 7% or 5-10 bushels per day. Acre. Its algorithms are accurate to within 10 square meters.
It gets even cooler
Signs of GE’s Industrial Internet initiative are evident in agricultural equipment today. New tractors have built-in tablets and navigation systems that allow farmers to populate fields with seeds or fertilizers optimized for local conditions. And ahead of the auto industry’s trend toward self-driving vehicles, these tractors are steering themselves based on the data inputs they receive.
With its growing analytics business, Monsanto is transforming into a data-driven business and consolidating the precision agriculture technologies market. Deeper insight into weather and planting can significantly improve crops. This intelligence could then be correlated with biotechnological advances to further optimize production. In a briefing with reporters announcing the acquisition, Kerry Preet, the company’s global vice president of strategy, said, “We believe data science has tremendous potential to increase productivity.”
Monsanto lies at the heart of several major technology trends, including big data analytics, cloud and mobility: it gathers genetic and environmental data from various databases, uses predictive analytics to create cloud-delivered algorithms on mobile devices with data visualization tools on board self-propelled tractors. And some people say that farming is boring!
However, it remains to be seen whether the productivity and economic benefits that come from precision farming can help change the company’s image of being Darth Vader for genetically modified crops, such as maize and soybeans. If Monsanto can make money from its early management in the field for the next five years, the company’s shareholders don’t care.