Farming Equipment is Beaming Back 'Reams of Data' To its Manufacturers



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Farming Equipment is Beaming Back 'Reams of Data' To its Manufacturers

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Farming equipment like combine harvesters "beam back reams of data to its manufacturer," reports Forbes: GPS records the combine's precise path through the field as it moves. Sensors tally the number of crops gathered per acre and the spacing between them. On a sister machine called a planter, algorithms adjust the distribution of seeds based on which parts of the soil have in past years performed best. Another machine, a sprayer, uses algorithms to scan for weeds and zap them with pesticides. Meanwhile sensors record the wear and tear on the machines, so that when the farmer who operates them heads to the local distributor to look for a replacement part, it has already been ordered and is waiting for them. Farming may be an earthy industry, but much of it now takes place in the cloud. Leading farm machine makers like Chicago-based John Deere or Georgia's AGCO collect data from all around the world thanks to the ability of their bulky machines to extract a huge variety of metrics from farmers' fields and store it online... The amassing of all that data in the hands of the few major companies that sell farm equipment across the country or worldwide has opened up big opportunities for the "smart farming" industry, even as many in the farming community are reluctant to part with information about the fields they plow.... Equipment makers with sufficient sales of machines around the country may in theory actually be able to predict, at least to some small but meaningful extent, the prices of various crops by analyzing the data its machines are sending in — such as "yields" of crops per acre, the amount of fertilizer used, or the average number of seeds of a given crop planted in various regions. Were the company then to sell that data to a commodities trader, say, it could likely reap a windfall: normally, the markets must wait for highly-anticipated government surveys to run their course.

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