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.
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