Busy times these days out in Leawood, KS, for ag data startup Farmobile, as they continue to – pardon the pro football prospect evaluation conjecture – check all the boxes.
And now, with today’s expansion of the Farmobile data collection ecosystem via the launch of DataEngine as well as an update to the DataStore, the company is drawing nigh to further delivering on its original go-to-market promise: to literally make data pay for farmers.
According to CEO and founder Jason Tatge, it’s newest software update, DataEngine “enables farmers to more easily ingest, standardize, view, and share the data” they’ve collected over Farmobiles Passive Uplink Connection (PUC) device.
“We’ve learned that, after we’ve focused so much time on the PUC device, there needs to be a better system to scale our ability to ingest data and then really kind of organize and then standardize it,” says Tatge. “We’ve worked for the better part of the last 18 months on building the DataEngine, so this is something that we see as foundational, not only to our PUC technology, but for us to bring in other layers of information as well.”
The two hooks that make Farmobile’s DataEngine significant beyond the typical software update announcement is its combination of machine and agronomic data, as well as the ability to visualize both layers together in real-time on the iPad.
“It’s really a geospatial organizational software-hardware combination that allows us to deliver some of the real-time visibility for the fleet, and allowing the growers to start making more in season decisions,” Tatge adds. “A lot of the data we collect today is stuff that we look at after-the-fact, and it’s not just Farmobile who has understood this but I think if you look at a lot of the new apps that are coming out, the appetite from the farmer side to be able to see things happening in real-time, and ingest that data in real-time. That’s really probably the next wave of digital ag.”
By collecting and combining machine and agronomic data in the company’s proprietary format, the Electronic Field Record (EFR), Tatge and Co. additionally believe they are taking another step towards a long-standing industry goal: finding and selecting an industry-wide data format standard.
“A data standard to me exists when it’s kind of widely adopted by the industry, and we’re putting together I would say right now an organizational pattern that we believe will become a standard by being able to merge data sets that traditionally haven’t been merged together,” he explains.
Another issue the Farmobile development team grappled with is the dreaded cellular connectivity in rural areas headache. Sure, there have been plenty of ag data analytics programs around to this point that store and re-send data to the cloud once a connection is reestablished, but when you’re working in a truly real-time environment with data visualization that can get a bit tricky, according to Tatge.
“I call it ‘data self-healing’. It’s the ability to reprocess the data once you get additional data points in, and it basically allows this data to kind of self-heal itself over time,” he explains.
“Now, the challenging part is when that data comes back up, let’s say there’s a cellular outage and you lose 20 seconds worth of data,” Tatge adds. “Well, if you’re just displaying the real-time stuff it looks like there’s a hole in that data because you lost cellular connectivity, and then suddenly it comes back up 20 minutes later and you’re painting the picture again. What we had to do is engineer our systems around the ability to collect that data when we get back into cell connectivity, and not only collect the data but then we have to reprocess the data set when new data makes it to our servers, to complete the holes that were created from cellular drops.”
Tatge shares that the new DataEngine capabilities are powered by industry-leading technologies like Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) cloud hosting product and should prove useful for ag service providers with mixed fleets still looking for advanced data visualization capabilities for their grower-customers. Sure, Deere already offers similar real-time visualization capabilities via its MyJohnDeere Operations Center, but it bears noting that product remains only available on Deere machinery.
“Deere to my knowledge still doesn’t take in data from Case and many other manufacturers, its only with Deere machines, and as we all know with sub-four dollar corn farmers aren’t doing a lot of new equipment purchases,” Tatge argues.
Streamlined DataStore Buying Process Makes Debut
Another little piece of news being dropped by Farmobile today, in conjunction with the ongoing InfoAg show in St. Louis, MO, is yet another step towards the full realization of the companies’ long-stated end goal: to monetize farm data sets, creating another stream of revenue for farmers.
That goal presumably moves forward with today’s announcement of the release of Farmobile’s updated DataStore. According to a press release from the company “any farmer on the Farmobile system can now sell their farm data to vetted third-party buyers for a per acre price.”
Tatge told PrecisionAg.com that making the data purchasing process more automated and streamlined, both from a buyer as well as Farmobile’s perspective, is another aspect that drove development of the DataStore.
“This is something we’re really excited to bring to our market; it’s been a pretty manual process thus far,” Tatge explains. “We have more than a million acres in the store right now for buyers to basically search. What happened before DataStore is if someone was interested in buying data they would call me and we’d have a conversation on what they are looking for, and then I’d go through the database manually and try to locate the acres that fell within the parameters the buyer was looking for.
“Then, I’d have to go and manually call each grower in that data set and see if they wanted to sell or not,” he says. “Now for buyers we’ve made it possible for them to easily search for, make an offer, and buy the data they seek.”
The company can now also reportedly pull in outside data layers to the DataStore – such as imagery, weather data, soil test data – through various APIs to offer buyers more well-rounded data set offerings than in previous seasons.
Tatge says they’ve also beefed up the back-end processing and storage infrastructure of DataStore with blockchain-powered technology from industry giants like AWS and Intel.
“We’re partnering with some of the industry giants on this blockchain component because the data that is going into the EFRs in the DataStore, we want some element of transparency on that stuff,” Tatge says.
The company encourages those attending InfoAg 2018 this week in St. Louis, MO, to swing by its booth on the trade show floor for more information.