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Big Data Down on the Farm

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted March 3, 2014

Hay field farm Indiana

Though agriculture is one of the oldest industries known to mankind, it can still benefit greatly from advances in technology. The Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER-P) 2014 Global Agriculture Conference last week highlighted some of these new services and technologies, and big data led the charge.

As the world population soars and urban sprawl continues to creep into our farm lands, every seed and acre become more vital to our way of life. Likewise, as certain parts of the world continue to struggle with famine, it is the responsibility of the modern farmer to get the most out of each and every crop.

On top of that, there is a growing demand for more nutritious, safe and affordable food that is driving the industry to seek out efficient alternatives to provide citizens with a healthy, balanced meal. That growing trend is no more evident than right here in the U.S. People want to know where their food comes from and how it was cultivated.

The power to harness big data can make that all possible and the farmer can maximize utility like never before. It’s a win-win.

Take a look at the soybean, for example. The soybean can incur losses of roughly 15 percent for a variety of reasons; 80 percent of which would typically occur during cutting and gathering: drought stress, harvest delays, seed swelling; pod clipping by insects constantly cause pre-harvest losses, and there are machine and mechanical errors that also contribute.

These factors can all be analyzed and scrutinized to set the farmer up for greater success.

Dupont (NYSE: DD)

Dupont sees the potential. It was a major draw last week, outlining growth across the seed, crop protection and nutrition and health business segments of their enterprise, and it all involved the utilization of big data.

It starts at home with the U.S. farmer, but Dupont is setting the precedent, bringing world-class science and engineering that is reaching the global marketplace too. Since 1802, Dupont has been on the cutting edge of the farming industry. Now, in 2014, it’s proving that the next phase of technical farming is through big data.

Dupont’s Agriculture and Nutrition & Health segments comprised more than 40 percent of company sales and segment operating earnings in 2013. That number is only rising, especially as the company launched its all-new seed and genetics business at last week’s conference with what it is calling Encirca services.


This new suite of whole-farm decision services aims to help improve productivity and profitability for the farmer.

These tailored, brand-neutral services will be delivered through local Encirca Certified Service Agents who work directly with farmers, helping them analyze, customize, and fully understand the power of the data at hand. Based on customization and priorities, the farmer will then be able to make accurate, money saving business decisions.

The potential for improved productivity will first be shown by farmers in the U.S., but soon could extend globally, covering a wide range of crops and markets.

The first official product, Encirca View, will be available this week.

The software takes weather and crop data from all over the country and gives it to farmers to help maximize their returns. It will include a mobile information platform that lets users compare notes, view trends and data, and gives access to advisors for tips and analysis.

Encirca View is the first of what could be many offerings under the Encirca services brand. It will have two platforms. The first is free and is used through a mobile device; the second is a premium, fee-based program with deeper market news and analysis, and field-specific weather forecasts.

Encirca Yield will be the next phase of Encirca services, and should be available later in 2014. It will be a fee-based offering to help assess, plan and analyze critical inputs of seeds, nitrogen/fertility and water to enhance placement and management.

Additional services are likely to follow in 2015 and beyond.

Road Ahead

The fight rages on for feast and for famine. If big data can show big results for our farmers in the U.S. then it’s only a matter of time before we see this same technology initiated on a global scale.

Dupont already has a healthy global market position. I mean, they’ve been out in the fields for more than two hundred years.

As agricultural demands grow, Dupont will play a major role in helping to meet the challenges that the world will face, and big data and its Encirca services will be there every step of the way.

It starts here. It starts now. Big data is big business.