The Economist – Big Data and Digital Disruption on the Farm

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The Economist’s article – ‘Disruption on the Farm’ presents an excellent summary of the power of big data and a case study on how predictive analytics can transform an industry’s and a company’s business model.

The Economist highlights prescriptive planting – using data to select specific seeds and specific plots of land to increase farm yields and notes that “it could be the biggest change to agriculture in rich countries since genetically modified crops. And it is proving nearly as controversial, since it raises profound questions about who owns the information on which the service is based.”

Monsanto, the multinational agricultural company, has developed ‘FieldScripts’ as the culmination of a significant Big Data and predictive analytics effort that is based upon Climate Corporation’s database of “50 billion soil observations and 10 trillion weather-simulation points”.  Climate Corporation was founded in 2006, in Silicon Valley by two former Google employees, and since has been acquired by Monsanto for approximately $1 billion.

Monsanto has since monetized its data by producing “a map of America which says which seed grows best in which field, under what conditions” and by utilizing  “machines made by Precision Planting, a company Monsanto bought in 2012, which makes seed drills and other devices pulled along behind tractors”.  The end result:  “Monsanto’s, loaded with data, can plant a field with different varieties at different depths and spacings, varying all this according to the weather.”

Wow!  That is how Big Data and predictive analytics transforms an industry and a company!

The outcome, Monsanto’s integrated system has increased crop yields by 5%.  What an incredible accomplishment.

To read the full article on the Economist’s web site, click here.

By Nick Mavrick

You can find Nick Mavrick on Google+

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