How This Startup Is Helping Farmers Do Better Business

Fortune
By Jonathan Vanian
August 29, 2016

It starts with col­lect­ing data from mil­lions of acres of farmland.

One might assume that farm­ers, toil­ing away in fields far beyond the bright lights of the big city, aren’t a tech-​​savvy bunch. One would be wrong. Farm­ing is arguably among the most data-​​driven and efficiency-​​minded of professions—and, typ­i­cally, the peo­ple who grow the nation’s food are hell-​​bent on ensur­ing they have the most up-​​to-​​date busi­ness intel­li­gence available.

Their approach has been con­sis­tent for centuries—after all, agri­cul­ture is a 12,000-year-old enter­prise. But what has changed more recently is how farm­ers go about it. Con­sider infor­ma­tion shar­ing. In the old days, farm­ers might exchange intel by reg­u­larly chat­ting with neigh­bor­ing farm­ers. (Okay, they still do.) Today many access aggre­gate data on demand, giv­ing them a stronger sense of how everyone’s neigh­bors are doing. John Brown man­aged a late-​​season cut­ting of his hay field? Noted. Jane Smith found the low­est prices for turnip seeds? Got it.

Con­sider Farm­ers Busi­ness Net­work, a startup in San Car­los, Calif., founded in 2013 by Amol Desh­pande, a for­mer part­ner at ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Kleiner Perkins Cau­field & Byers, and Charles Baron, a for­mer pro­gram lead for energy inno­va­tion at Google GOOGL 1.40% .

The com­pany promises farm­ers that they can boost their prof­its by tap­ping into a sys­tem that stores and shares data from thou­sands of farm­ers and mil­lions of acres across the U.S. The repos­i­tory, which is built on Ama­zon Web Ser­vices AMZN 2.13% , the retailer’s cloud-​​computing plat­form, pools and processes data—such as seed and chem­i­cal prices, field sizes, and crop yields—to give par­tic­i­pat­ing farm­ers a holis­tic look at how their oper­a­tions stack up against the rest of the pack. It’s not a mat­ter of com­pe­ti­tion, mind you—it’s a way for a farmer to make sure he or she isn’t get­ting a raw deal.

“The idea of doing this at this scale has not been pos­si­ble before,” Baron says.

To read the full arti­cle, visit For­tune.