big data corn field

A cornfield can be a billion points of information

Jeff Hodel farms 6,000 acres of corn and soybeans near Roanoke, Ill. To feed a growing population -- an estimated 9 billion worldwide by mid-century -- he uses genetically modified seeds, producing higher yields. The same companies that make the seeds, Monsanto and DuPont, are building hardware and software that help farmers plant and fertilize their crops with surgical precision. The goal is to have farmers double their per-acre yield by 2030, in part by monitoring their fields using off-the-shelf tools, such as an iPad. The Climate Corp., a company founded by former Google executives David Friedberg and Siraj Khaliq, provides crop insurance for farmers by analyzing 22 data sets for weather every six hours, calculating about 10,000 scenarios that could happen to a grower during the next two years. They run 34 trillion different simulations that can be used to price hyper-local insurance rates for atmospheric calamity. When erratic rain caused one farmer's corn crop to fail, Climate Corp. automatically compensated him $45,000 for his losses. The farmer didn't even need to file a claim.

- Last updated September 10 2012 06:07 PM ET
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