The Technological boom has touched nearly every industry; it may now be taking over the farming industry. Monsanto and John Deere, two big Agribusiness giants, have started services that allow them to collect minute by minute data from farms as crops are being planted and harvested. Currently available to Midwestern farmers, both companies pledge that the data will benefit the farmers by increasing profits.
The technology uses a GPS device that computes what type of crop, how much of that crop is being harvested and the location of the crop. The same for planting; the type, location and amount of seed used will be computed. Once all of the data goes through the big Agribusiness software, a multicolored map of the farmers’ crops will be produced. Eventually, it will have a map of field-by-field weather predictions and soil conditions from a high-tech venture called the Climate Corp., which Monsanto bought last year for $1 billion dollars. The map, much like a weather map showing areas of rain or different temperatures, will show a detailed report and analysis of the quantity of seeds planted VS how much was harvested. Some view this technology as vital to farmers, as the amount of variation within a single field is astonishing. At harvest time, the GPS system shows the yields produced within the area, thus collecting data that will show which areas produced higher yield. Similarly at planting time, the GPS receiver controls the planting machinery by placing seeds closer together or switching seed varieties to match conditions in different parts of the fields. This new system is designed to help make farming techniques more efficient while increasing profit margins. But will it be used in this way or will the data collected instead be used to the advantage of competitors who may also gain access to the data in the cloud?
Dan Charles, “Should farmers give Monsanto and John Deere their data?” January 22, 2014
Student Researcher: Tabatha Willing, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
The farming industry seems to have a hierarchy similar to social Darwinism. Many farms have stood the test of time, showing their true ability to sustain over many decades, even centuries. The obvious ethical problem raised here is the farmers’ privacy. Who is to say what the big agribusinesses are going to do with the information gathered from the farmers. The data collection programs are still evolving and many of the rules for how the data will be shared has yet to be determined. While producing a higher crop yield is for the greater good worldwide, there is still the matter of competition in order to ensure financial success. If competitors and vendors are privy to the farmers’ data, they will undoubtedly be aware of his capabilities and in most cases, his sacred techniques.
With the GPS program still in its infantile phase there have yet to be violations of public trust known. Some are concerned about the importance of the information taken from the GPS units. Information such as the quantity of corn, wheat and other crops being harvested are collected by these companies. The use of GPS technology to transmit every few minutes how much grain is being harvested in tens of thousands of fields would allow users access to some potentially powerful knowledge. This powerful knowledge could inherently allow potential for food stocks to be controlled globally.
Exploitation of the stock market is nothing new in the United States. The manipulation of food stocks by these persons/companies with access to the overall data would be nothing like a ponzi scheme or even espionage. The farmers would willfully be giving all of the data needed to corrupt these stocks. No money up front, nothing tangible lost; only information to be shared. The hopes of boosting efficiency and profits for farmers’ could turn into disastrous corruption and greed.