Monsanto has made the first move towards building a centralized and open digital platform for farmers to access agronomic data and analysis from a range of providers through its subsidiary The Climate Corporation.
Much like how Apple opened up the iPhone to independent application providers, Monsanto wants to provide a hub for all agtech providers to essentially sell their wares, at the same time capturing their data and integrating it into the FieldView platform. This integrated platform will give farmers the ability to track their operations from several different angles, from soil moisture sensing to satellite imagery to weather data, to better make predictions and decisions on how their operations are faring.
A lofty goal, this plan will take several months and years to play out, according to Mark Young, chief technology officer for Climate Corporation.
“We don’t want to build an open platform in a vacuum, but in one to two years’ time we will have all of this sealed and there will be a self-service portal and well-defined APIs enabling developers to sign up and get a developer key to build products for the platform,” he said.
There are a lot of moving parts that make this announcement both exciting and complicated for the industry and the farmers it’s trying to serve. Below we’ve tried to lay out how the platform will evolve, how Monsanto stands to benefit from it, and what it means for farmers and the agtech industry overall.
What is Monsanto’s digital plan?
The first step in this plan is building an in-field sensor network, and this week Monsanto announced a partnership with Veris Technologies, a sensing technology that’s pulled across fields to create soil maps. It also revealed that it had acquired nutrient-detecting sensor manufacturer SupraSensor as part of this sensor network build out.
The data that Veris captures will be integrated into the FieldView platform for farmers to access alongside existing Climate Corp data streams, which range from weather data to satellite imagery, farmers’ manually entered data, and Monsanto’s in-house research.
As part of this partnership, which Young called a beta partnership, Veris will work with Climate Corp to develop its soil data API. “They are an early partner to help us prove out that part of the platform ahead of others joining later,” said Young.
Young expects to bring on several more beta partners over the next two quarters and is currently evaluating nitrogen, moisture and weather sensors to add to this network, again with the aim of proving out the specific data segment they’re related to. “There is not one silver bullet when it comes to data,” he told AgFunderNews. “We need a network of providers to provide value to farmers.”
The terms of the deal with Veris were not disclosed and Young says it’s still unclear how the partnerships will work with regards to distribution, but he envisages some data providers will be fully integrated into FieldView, like Veris, whereas others will be an add-on that farmers can choose to purchase. This would be particularly relevant to hyperlocal data providers, said Young.
The in-field sensor network is just one part of a four-pronged strategy to build out an open digital ag platform: the other parts of the chain include in-cab connectivity, which hardware manufacturers can integrate with to provide visualizations through the FieldView cab monitor; integration of all the software applications themselves; and what Young called ‘FieldView Cloud,’ which is the back-end system that already has an announced API and some existing partnerships.