Monsanto’s Plan Puts Focus On Data

PERSPECTIVE  I recently returned from the Agricultural Retailers Association Annual Conference in San Diego where, in addition to the usual networking, I got to host a modest roundtable of ag retailers to talk about the issues of the day. If you’re a grower reading this, hang in there … this is for you too.

The discussion eventually got around to technology, and toward two topics in particular. The first was a question I had: Do retailers feel that Monsanto’s Integrated Farming System, a program that is designed to turn grower planting and harvest data into yield-enhancing hybrid and variety recommendations that growers will pay for, will be a threat to their own precision/agronomy services business?

In general, the retailers around the table, virtually all with pretty robust agronomy services programs in place, did not feel particularly threatened by the service. The concept of providing a “black box” solution is an inherent problem for retail agronomists who believe in and sell the concept that “all agronomy is local,” but none felt it would threaten to displace them.

On the other hand, one participant who is working with Monsanto on IFS felt it might be beneficial to have that recommendation on the table each spring. Part of the issue is that for many (although not everyone), plant population is a relatively new science that few feel they have a strong handle on. And it’s tough to argue that the seed company knows less than anyone else about the seed they sell.

Some retailers were more concerned about the effect on their seed business – the rigorous training requirements Monsanto places on retail agronomists who facilitate the IFS program, and the relatively low return on that training and people investment were at the top of the list. The pilot program rolling out in 2013 will be an interesting test of Monsanto’s approach we will all be watching carefully.

But this led to an even more interesting discussion about something deeper: grower data. Of course, for Monsanto’s program to be successful it will need its growers to provide a lot of field data so recommendations are as on target as possible. Will most growers be willing to submit data to Monsanto? If the past is prologue, we need only turn to Roundup Ready crops. It would have been hard to imagine in the year 2000 that it would take less than a decade for Roundup Ready corn and soybeans to dominate more than 90% of the corn and soybean markets. But the clear value, and the need to be competitive, overcame objections about a company that had not courted the growers’ favor in those early marketing years.

That’s a pretty … no, actually a VERY high value bar that Monsanto set, and one that will be virtually impossible to match through seed selection and plant population recommendations. The cost will have to be carefully set, and the rewards reasonably reliable for growers to buy in. But given the value of a bushel of corn or soybeans it doesn’t take much … at least not as much as it used to.

But getting back to the data: my questions to you all are, who owns this information, and how do you feel about the Monsanto plan? I think it’s clear that the grower owns the raw information he or she collects through soil sampling, planting, inputs and harvest, but what happens when a third party turns this information into an actionable plan? Or uses it in aggregate both to improve the robustness of its recommendations AND to generate more revenue?

Relative to the total population of American farmers, this has happened for years on a relatively small scale with early precision agriculture adopters. Retail agronomists and consultants, and some software companies have been doing this for years with the consent of growers who have embraced the benefits that data processing and aggregation can provide. But Monsanto’s entry into the market will open this up to millions of growers who may not have considered the question of data ownership … including those who have considered it and don’t like the idea of sharing.

As I said, this coming year will be one to watch and listen. By this time next year, we’ll have a much clearer picture of where IFS will be going, and how growers are feeling about it. My feeling is that this will be a bumpy road, as Monsanto delivers its value message, growers weigh it up, and retailers and consultants work to maintain their place as the local agronomy experts.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Data Management Stories
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Data ManagementData as Currency in Ag: We Aren’t There Yet
May 25, 2017
A hot topic in the precision ag revolution is the idea ag data will become a form of currency. Many Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Data ManagementClimate Adds Irrigation Data Analytics via HydroBio Acquisition, Will Expand to Europe in 2017
May 9, 2017
Today, The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of HydroBio, an agriculture software company based in Read More
Trending Articles
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Mung beans Australia
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk Averse Marketplace
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: The Weather Company’s Rob Berglund on Cognitive Computing
April 19, 2017
Rob Berglund, global director of sales, energy and agriculture at The Weather Company, discusses IBM’s Watson and applications for advanced analytics that will fundamentally change Read More
Corn close up
Data ManagementFarmers Business Network Releases State of the Industry Style Report
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, a special research report on the state of Read More
Latest News
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Data ManagementData as Currency in Ag: We Aren’t There Yet
May 25, 2017
A hot topic in the precision ag revolution is the idea ag data will become a form of currency. Many Read More
Ag Tech GlobalSci-Fi in Ag: The Waging War of Plant-Internet Bots
May 25, 2017
Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Hort TechThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag…
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
Nematodes in cotton
Ag Tech GlobalUsing Precision Agriculture to Manage Nematodes in Braz…
May 22, 2017
As promised in my first article, this month I am writing about some technical aspects related to the use of Read More
Farmers on Tablet Photo Credit All About Food
Professionals6 Keys of Successful Precision Agriculture Tools
May 17, 2017
As precision agriculture professionals we are frequently approached by companies that wish to partner with our organization in order to Read More
Hagie sprayer
GuidanceWhat’s New and What’s Next from Hagie Manufacturing
May 16, 2017
Many were surprised by John Deere’s announcement last spring that it had acquired majority ownership of Hagie Manufacturing Co., a Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Ag Tech GlobalHortau Commemorates 15 Years in Ag Tech
May 15, 2017
Today, Hortau celebrates its 15-year anniversary as one of the pioneers in the AgTech space, according to a press release Read More
Kip Tom
Ag Tech GlobalAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
Ag Tech Global2017 International Tomato Congress Features Ag Tech Ses…
May 11, 2017
The International Tomato Congress has taken place in Mexico since 2006. In 2017 it will celebrate its twelfth year as Read More
Ag Tech GlobalVenture Capital News: Aerial Imagery Outfit Garners $5 …
May 11, 2017
Ceres Imaging, an aerial spectral imagery and analytics company serving the agricultural sector, today announced it has raised a $5 Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Mea…
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
DronesSentera Phoenix Drone Nears Coveted 1,000 Acre Coverage…
May 11, 2017
Sentera introduces its Phoenix fixed-wing drone product line, with variants to support the precision agriculture, mapping, and public safety industries, Read More
Data ManagementClimate Adds Irrigation Data Analytics via HydroBio Acq…
May 9, 2017
Today, The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of HydroBio, an agriculture software company based in Read More
GuidanceTersus adds RTK-Based AutoSteer System to GNSS Offering…
May 8, 2017
Tersus GNSS Inc., a Chinese GNSS RTK manufacturing company, released its brand new AutoSteer solution recently. The AG960 AutoSteer System Read More
DronesAgEagle takes on the Big Boys with RX48 Fixed Wing Dron…
May 8, 2017
AgEagle Aerial Systems of Neodesha, KS, today announced a fixed wing drone for the use in precision agriculture that far Read More
Mung beans Australia
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
Decision Support SoftwareMZB Launching New Grid Tool, Updated Mapping Center
May 3, 2017
MZB Technologies has added an additional tool to its precision system. Known for its patented zone-based precision technology, MZB will Read More