Agriculture is taking on a whole new look thanks to the emergence of ubiquitous sensors and big data technologies, as farmers are now able to collect and analyze data about nearly every aspect of their operations. The latest evidence of how big the agriculture-meets-data market might be in the future came on Wednesday, when a Kansas City, Missouri-based company called FarmLink announced it has closed a $40 million round of venture capital, led by OpenAir Equity Partners.
FarmLink collects data from sensor-equipped combines and then analyzes it to determine the maximum yield for any given tract of land. After this summer’s harvest, the company claims in a press release, it will have “more than 5 million acres of real yield data, along with more than a trillion data elements.”
But FarmLink is just one example of a company trying to reinvent farming by way of data. We have covered others, including Blue River, Farm Intelligence, Granular and BioConsortia. The latter is particularly interesting: It’s using next-generation DNA sequencing technologies to identify microbes that could help improve crop yields. Agribusiness giant Monsanto bought big-farm-data startup Climate Corporation for $930 million last year.
Presumably, though — and, perhaps, hopefully — farms and fields are just a starting point for sensors to overtake all sorts of industries, from health care to civic planning. We’ve covered some early attempts to do this already, and we’ll delve into them even more at our Structure Connect conference in October, which is all about what will be possible when everything is connected.
Some of the hottest fields of computer science right now, including deep learning, are potentially revolutionary but are still waiting for applications that really matter. The more data sensors let us generate about the food we eat, the way we treat disease and the way our cities function, the more shots we have to put new computing techniques to the test and really make a difference.