Technology companies are getting into the agriculture business.
Farming is a difficult, often unpredictable business. But it’s one that could be drastically improved through data collection and predictive analytics.
In November, Microsoft launched FarmBeats on Azure marketplace, which is a sort of internet of things for farms. The effort is a multi-year plan to modernize agriculture with data analytics, and it is being tested on two U.S. farms in which Microsoft has invested. The system uses unlicensed long-range TV white space to to connect and capture data from solar-powered sensors, while drones gather aerial footage of crops. The data are mined and refined using machine learning algorithms, which then send analysis back to farmers with recommendations for how to tweak their resource use. The company also helped launch Grand Farm, a partnership between farmers, businesses, government, and entrepreneurs in North Dakota. Over three years, Grand Farm will help upskill workers to drive agricultural and new business innovation.
Walmart—which we think of as a technology company as well as a retailer—is opening its own meatpacking plants and dairy processing facilities in an effort to drive down costs. Meanwhile Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has invested in vertical farming. (See: Aeroponics, Vertical Farming, and Indoor Plant Factories.)
Farm analytics is an active area of R&D and investment. There are a number of startups actively building products and services for agriculture, which points to consolidation over the next few years.
The agriculture market is worth an estimated $5 trillion and has serious implications for the survival of growing human populations.
Amazon, EarthSense, John Deere, Microsoft, Monsanto, Pollen Systems, Solinftec, TeleSense, Trace Genomics, Understory, Walmart.
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