Category Archives: Ag Precision News

Precision Data: The Harvest That Lasts Year-Round

Even as planting season started this spring so too did harvest.

No not the harvest of corn and soybeans but the harvest of data.  And the big players in this space are the mega bio-science companies Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred who are harvesting millions of acres worth of data annually.

Those living alongside the dusty country roads out in the Heartland have had a front row seat in watching these companies jockey for position in this new digital agricultural sweepstakes.  It is also catching the eye of Wall Street as well.  In last week’s June 14th edition of the Wall Street Journal there was a feature article on the new “Data Harvest” taking place in agriculture.

There is no doubt in my mind that the recent purchase of the precision hardware company Precision Planting by the genetic powerhouse Monsanto prompted the writer to pen this article.

If you will recall a few weeks ago on my blog I wrote about Monsanto shaking up the precision ag world with this purchase. I said then that the purchase had little to do with the purchase of a profitable hardware company.  Rather it had everything to do with access to some of the best real-time planting data a researcher and a sales team could ever ask for.

But what was really intriguing about the article was the mention of another company – MachineryLink – who is also entering the race for data.  For those of you who have not heard the name MachineryLink it is a company based in Kansas City that leases combines to producers all across North America.  MachineryLink has created a company called FarmLink that is going to be collecting valuable real-time harvest data from their massive fleet of combines.  FarmLink will then distribute that data to its grower customers and then market it to crop insurers, farm management firms and farmland investors such as pension funds.  Now you know why Wall Street is so interested in what’s going on in the country!

Monsanto, Pioneer and FarmLink are just a handful of the companies that are attempting to fill the niches of this new market.  It has the feel of a modern-day gold rush and no doubt there’s going to be booms and busts and plenty of excitement along the way.

Jeff Banker a FarmLink representative quoted in the article summed it up the best of what’s going on.

“Every business that exists now is a data business,” said Banker.  “Farming is just on the cusp of that.”

To read more about this story check out the article entitled:  Farmers Prepare for the Data Harvest from the Thursday, June 14th Business Technology section of the Wall Street Journal.

Monsanto Rocks Precision World With Purchase

The precision headline of the week, month and maybe the year was made on Wednesday, May 23rd when Monsanto announced it was acquiring the precision hardware company Precision Planting.

Consolidation is not new in any industry but this one is different and has far reaching implications.  For a biotech company like Monsanto to invest in a precision hardware company means that the rules have now changed.  The extent, scope and nature of those implications are yet to be played out.  The one sure thing, however, is that the precision landscape is forever changed because of it.

Recently, one of the vice-presidents of one of the major precision agriculture hardware firms asked me who I thought the future players and primary competitors would be in the world of Precision Ag 2.0.  I could have given my standard response of John Deere, CNH, Raven, Ag Leader, etc.  But times have changed.  Instead my answer was simply Monsanto and possibly Pioneer.

Why?  Agronomy is the new foundation…the next frontier for precision agriculture.  The seed will drive future technology… including precision agriculture hardware.   If Monsanto is committed to doubling yields by 2030 it realizes that bio-tech alone will not get them there.  Execution in the real world is what Precision Planting does better than anybody else when it comes to putting high-priced genetics into the ground.

Monsanto did not buy Precision Planting because it is a profitable hardware company and because it likes how their technology plants picket fence rows of corn.  Monsanto bought Precision Planting because no one provides more data from the field on the planting process than Precision Planting’s array of planter sensors and instant feedback technology such as their iPad driven FieldView app.  Monsanto wants to build the holy grail of an agronomic database.  Precision Planting will help them on the way to such a quest.

Is this a good move for Monsanto and Precision Planting? What are your thoughts?  Click here to read a great blog post by Paul Schrimpf of the Precision Ag Network on this particular subject that addresses some of the same initial questions I had when I first heard the news.

LinkedIn is Your Link to Precision Ag Professionals

Even though precision agriculture has now been around for 20-plus years it still is only a small segment of the world’s overall agricultural industry.

Because of this fact it is still a small world when it comes to the people who call precision agriculture their profession. The people that work within this profession are a tight-knit group. Call it a club, fraternity or perhaps more fitting a rag-tag band of pioneers.

Such a close bond makes sense given that precision agriculture is a highly technical and knowledge-based in its nature. But the thing that really brings about such closeness is that we truly are still pioneers in this precision agriculture journey and we’re discovering the future together as we go. There are no maps – no final destination. Every day is a new day in the precision ag world and to make that journey easier we’ve learned to rely on each other.

In our personal and also professional lives social media is making such collaboration and the exchange of ideas easier than ever before. But while all the buzz in the news is swirling around Facebook there is another social media forum that makes more sense for precision agriculture – it’s called LinkedIn.

You’ve heard the saying it’s not what you know it’s who you know. This pretty much sums up what LinkedIn is all about. It’s sort of like your Rolodex meets Facebook merged with your email.

Bottom line if you want your go to resource list for precision agriculture link-up with LinkedIn. But don’t stop by just posting your name and inviting friends – sign up for the Precision Agriculture group made up of industry professionals around the world. Check it out here at this link: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Precision-Agriculture-1561757

I think you’ll find it much more beneficial and professional than Facebook, where you find out who got a new pair of shoes or what someone had for dinner last night.

Mobile Computing Changing the Precision Agriculture Industry

Its always good to share with fellow colleagues in the precision ag what the industry is up to. Recently, Paul Schrimpf of PrecisionAg.com and I had a chance to talk regarding how mobile computing is changing the face of precision agriculture. Like myself, Paul is literally amazed how quickly things are changing from a desktop and tablet world to a tablet one. True mobile computing – a world where iPhones and iPads rule the day is finally putting the grower back in charge of his data and more importantly his farm.

To check out the full conversation between Paul and I on this exciting subject of mobile computing and the future of precision agriculture check out Paul’s recent blog post, “Mobile On The Move: A Conversation With Steve Cubbage.

Prime Meridian makes the News and Predictions about Precision

Photo from FarmIndustryNews.com.

Farm Industry News recently highlighted Prime Meridian in an article about what the future holds for precision agriculture.

The February article in Farm Industry News entitled, “Next wave of precision ag data” featured comments and crystal ball predictions from industry leaders including Steve Cubbage, president of Prime Meridan, a precision agricultural data management company headquartered in Nevada, MO.

To find out the trends and the technology that will drive precision agriculture in the next decade check out the article by clicking here.

USDA Report on Precision Ag – The Devil is in the Details

This past summer the USDA’s Economic Research Service released a report on the current state of precision agriculture in the United States written by David Schimmelpfenning and Robert Ebel.

At first glance it would suggest this is a segment of agriculture that is going Mach 2 with its hair on fire.  Yield monitoring is used on over 40 percent of all combine harvesters in the U.S. and both manual and automated GPS guidance continues to grow at exponential rates.

It’s there where the warm, fuzzy part of the report ends and the real story begins.  The authors of the report note that while yield monitor use has seen steady growth  – actual GPS yield mapping has not.  Another precision horse that is lagging is the adoption – or maybe more precisely – the implementation of variable-rate technologies.

None of us who have been around the precision ag industry this past decade are shocked by this lack of “progress”.   Precision agriculture is still finding its way.  It is still searching for its true identity.  Yield monitors took hold because they are like the “I Love Lucy Show” – they’re good entertainment in the cab.  GPS guidance took off because for lack of a better reason – it was simple and growers didn’t want their neighbors to have straighter rows than they did.

Frankly, the industry as done a poor job of preparing and training those who use and can benefit the most from precision agriculture technology.  It is like we sat them in a cockpit of a 747 and asked them to fly from New York to Paris without any flight lessons or manual.

From day one the industry also sold producers on the premise that precision ag was easy and they could do everything themselves – sort of like brewing your own beer in your basement.  Precision ag data management is hard and is getting harder.  Growers don’t know where to turn or what comes next.  We’ve handed them a 1,000 piece puzzle and forgot to give them the picture on the front of the box.  The reality of the situation is that there are real benefits to be had but we cannot expect producers to complete this journey alone and without some sense of direction.

It’s All About Data

Which is more valuable data or dirt? When the mainstream financial press starts running stories about modern farming that includes references of “server farms” and “harvesting data” you know the times they are a changin’.

Recently, an article in the Investor’s Business Daily gave the rest of world outside agriculture a glimpse of how important “harvesting data” has become to some of the big name players in the agricultural industry.

The story is a validation of Prime Meridian’s mission – that it truly is all about DATA.  And we believe the value of that data belongs to those that till the land, plant the seeds and harvests the crops that feed the world.  It’s your data but the eyes of Wall Street and the titans of agriculture have their eye on it as well. Will the producer reap the bounty of his labor from this virtual crop he has harvested?  Only time will tell.

Read the full article: “Today’s Farmers Do Heavy Plowing…Of Data” by Jason Ma of Investor’s Business Daily.

Prime Meridian Welcomes You

We’re happy to welcome you to the Prime Meridian Blog. Our goal is to make this blog the center of discussion for all precision agriculture data while demonstrating how technology that provides storing and sharing tools can lead to profit for your farm.

We believe that farm data belongs to the customer. It’s your farm, and that means it should be your data. It should be yours to share with the local professionals you trust. We believe that is the only way that precision agriculture and your farm can grow. Not everyone feels the same way. Stay tuned, as we expect this to be a fairly interesting topic and potentially controversial topic on this blog.

But this won’t be a blog just about farm data. We’ll talk about Ag news, precision farming and hopefully give you some insights into what goes into making your farm perform at an optimum level.

We’d prefer that this be a two way conversation. So let us know what you think of what you’re reading and make suggestions on what you’d like to learn more about. We’re listening.

Lastly, we get a lot of questions about our name. The “Prime Meridian” is a line of longitude at which the longitude is zero. So basically, everything starts from 0 degrees, or, the Prime Meridian. When it comes to farm data, we’d like you to start with us.