There was no shortage of new precision technology introduced at this year’s Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa. With several companies launching robust data management service platforms, one of the questions I asked was, “Where will dealers fit into delivery of these tools?”
The majority of responses centered around dealers being the local outlet for customers to understand the value of data collection, storage and analysis. But to distinguish themselves from the competition — and ideally make data management service a profitable part of their business — dealers will need to understand and embrace the evolution of farming from an analog to a digital industry.
One of the companies jockeying for position in the race to develop a comprehensive precision data management solution is The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto. At the Farm Progress Show, Climate Corp. CEO David Friedberg, a former Google executive, had some interesting insight into how technology is shaping the future of agriculture and where the economic opportunities lie for players in the data management business.
The biggest trend is that farms are becoming digitized. No longer are fields being looked at as a whole, but rather as smaller pieces assigned a number, which represents a subset of data collected from a yield monitor or soil test.
Driving this trend, Friedberg says, is the fact that we can collect more data, cheaper and faster than ever before. In 1980 it cost $192,000 to store 1 gigabyte of information on a hard drive. Today, you can store a gigabyte of information for $0.04, he says. And in the last 4 years the cost for transmitting data wirelessly with a mobile phone has dropped by 75%.
“We can create an incredible amount of data and transmit it for nearly nothing,” Friedberg says. “As a result, there are more mobile phones connected with sensors on them, than there are human beings on earth.”
Wireless sensors are seemingly everywhere today, collecting data. There are about 30 billion microchip sensors on earth and in the next 4 years Friedberg expects another 100 billion to make their way into industry.
“Agriculture is feeling this and we’re seeing the physical world being turned into a number through some sort of sensing device,” he says. “So there isn’t a great opportunity to create a financial incentive around storing, creating and transmitting information, because it’s essentially free.”
The question, Friedberg says, is what do you do with all that information? This is something dealers will need to answer if they want to carve out their digital niche in the future of precision farming.