If you live at a distance from farm country, agriculture might seem like an unchanging industry, built around traditional methods and relatively low-tech tools. Even a Google Image search primarily brings up pictures of tractors plowing through fields. However, the economic risks of agriculture actually force farmers to be early adopters of new technology. As a result, today’s farms can be just as high tech as any office you’ll find in Silicon Valley—especially when it comes to data.
A farm today relies on a whole array of datasets, each more complex than the last: GPS data, satellite imagery, drone imagery, weather and climate data, not to mention the data being produced by a growing variety of ag-specific smart sensors that monitor everything from soil health to the rate of crop development. And that’s just the data on the external variables. As the technology powering plant genomics has become cheaper and more powerful, farmers have access to a growing body of data on the characteristics of the seeds they plant.
There’s so much data, in fact, that to properly crunch it, a company would need to deploy the most sophisticated machine learning models just to keep up. And that’s exactly the job of Matt Meisner at Farmers Business Network. Founded by Agricultural entrepreneur Amol Deshpande and Google veteran Charles Baron in 2014, FBN is an online farmer-to-farmer network where farmers can anonymously pool their information about all aspects of their farms—what they’re planting, how they’re planting it, genetics they’re using, fertilizers they’re using, pesticides they’re using, rates and timings of applications—to learn from each other and provide each other with better knowledge when negotiating with outside vendors including seed, chemical and grain buying companies.
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