Big data has come to the farm. The world’s two largest seed sellers, Monsanto and DuPont, are building “prescriptive planting” technology that will take in detailed data from farmers and spit out precise guidelines for planting. The upside is that farmers can use the algorithmic advice to easily identify things like the best soil for the best seeds, the amount of fertilizer needed, and optimal density for planting.
Deere tractors beams data directly to DuPont and Dow Chemical
Some farmers and agricultural organizations are worried about the amount of control the industry is ceding to megacorporations, however. Farmers today rely heavily on algorithms and iPads to automate their planting, and that data is easily harvested. Deere even signed a contract to beam data directly from its tractors to DuPont and Dow Chemical, reports The Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, the new technology could price struggling small farmers out of business.
There are also fears that the data services will be used to convince farmers to plant more and therefore buy more seeds. Farmers are also concerned that the data could be used on Wall Street to inform price projections, cutting into their profit on futures contracts. “I’m afraid, as farmers, we are not going to be the ones reaping the benefit,” one farmer told WSJ.