Bigger Data, Better Farms: How Silicon Valley is Helping Farming Take the Next Step
SALINAS, CA - Salinas and Silicon Valley are joining hands to bring the revolutionary applications of big data to America's farms, and the result could mean expanding harvests, higher yields, and big, big profits. This union however is born as much from necessity as from dreams of dollars.
According to Nobel laureate, Norman Borlaug, there is a desperate need for a larger food supply to meet the growing demands of a booming global population. Borlaug put it in stark terms to Forbes writers: “In the next 40 years, farmers will have to grow as much food as they have in the last 10,000 years — combined.”
This, however, is where big data comes in. “Like many industries today, the agriculture industry is being transformed by the use of data, in all its variety,” said Deborah Magid, Director of Software Strategy in IBM's Venture Capital Group. “Data is everywhere, and over the next few years, innovative new uses of information in all aspects of farming — from yield optimization, to food safety and quality, to distribution, to water management, fertilizer management, connected vehicles and even whole new methods of growing food — will be adopted. It’s already happening.”
The list of companies jumping on-board this “Smart Farm” revolution is an impressive one and includes industry titans such as Dole Foods, Chiquita, Driscoll Berries, Taylor Farms, Ocean Mist Farms, JV Smith and Tanimura & Antle. Many have already been impressed by the results, even if the technology in use is still in its infancy in relation to where it could be in the next decade.
Brian Kocher, Chiquita’s Chief Operating Officer, told Forbes, “We have experienced substantial changes in growing conditions over the last years. It is clear that time-tested agricultural practices are no longer sufficient for an expanding population and we must be smarter and more efficient using increasingly scarce resources such as water. The intersection of agricultural and technical science is rapidly improving yields and efficiencies, and we believe the initiatives to link agricultural innovators with technology innovators will yield substantial benefits for both the population and the planet.”
There's big money at stake in this business. Research from the International Data Corporation, estimates that the 'Internet of Things' could grow from a $1.9 trillion industry in 2013 to a $7.1 trillion industry by 2020 (note: According to Forbes, the IDC “defines the Internet of Things as a network of networks of uniquely identifiable endpoints...that communicate without human interaction using IP connectivity...). Even bigger however are the number of lives at stake. Just remember Borlaug's quote, and remember that by 2050 Earth's farmers will be tasked with feeding a population expected to exceed 9 billion.
It's an immense task, but with the help of big data, Salinas stands ready.