Monsanto and John Deere, two 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, the 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. Similar data is available for planting–the type, location, and amount of seed used can be computed. Once all of the data goes through the companies’ 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. 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 versus 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?
Source: 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 (Indian River State College)