Data intelligence to boost crop yields

Data for farmers

A recent article from The Economist highlights how new data technologies are set to create digital disruption for farmers.

CRops economistHybrid seed producer, Monsanto, have bought out a Silicon Valley start-up for $1 billion USD to build their system of ‘Prescription Planting’. The system can tell farmers with precision which seeds to plant and how to cultivate seeds in each patch of land. It is predicted that the new technology will be the biggest change to the agriculture industry since the introduction of genetically modified crops.

The system was originally created by two former Google employees, who mapped out 25 million fields in the US and superimposed climate information on top.

Crop Insights

While the program was originally intended to help sell crop insurance, Monsanto have used the tool to provide a sophisticated planting system that can predict which seeds grow best in which field under specific conditions.This is done by combining the climate information with their extensive data on seed yields.

Many planters are already capable of steering themselves using GPS technology. Precision planting provides a further progression as farmers can now plant with different depths and spacing, varying according to the weather.

Results are already showing great promise, with yields increasing by 5% over two years.

Concerns

Some farmers are concerned over how such technologies will affect the agriculture industry.

Advanced technologies may remove some of the discretion and skill that farmers have been accustomed to for generations. Furthermore, there is concern over what organisations like Monsanto will do with the data they collect.

There is grey area over who owns the data collected, and hence whether data organisations can on-sell data to competitors, use information for commodity trading or for acquisition of underperforming farmland.

American farmers are already responding to such threats, with the American Farm Bureau drawing up a code of conduct for data organisations to comply with. The code will provide farmers with ownership of their data and prevents organisations from sharing their data with third parties or using it for purposes other than those for which it was provided.

Takeaways for Australian Farmers

Digital and data insights are set to greatly impact agricultural industries. While developments are still in early stages, expect more frameworks, policy and competition to evolve around these technologies over the next few years.

Those who are willing to become early adopters of change may find themselves gaining significant competitive advantage. For more information on how technology is disrupting business visit our sister website www.digitalagriculture.com.au