David Levya, Climate Corp office manager, walks through a demo of the company's interactive globe, which can project a variety of information such as real-time satellite imagery, ocean surface temperatures and more.
What do mathematics, statistical probability, computer modeling, and physics have to do with farming? More than you may think, say officials from The Climate Corporation. The company has spent the past several years in the heart of the Silicon Valley collecting and analyzing terabyte after terabyte of weather data from an alphabet soup’s worth of public and private entities, including the NOAA, NASS, USDA, NRCS and NWS. Even so, they hesitate to call what they do Big Data.
"I just call it science," says Erik Andrejko, agronomy lead. Colleague Sivan Aldor-Noiman, climatology lead, agrees.
"It’s not just about the volume of data," she says. "It’s about making the data useful. The term Big Data is really overused. Harnessing the data is the point, not collecting it."
Data must go through a four-step journey to become useful, insists Jim Ethington, vice president of product. Data leads to analysis, which leads to insights, which leads to recommendations, he says. The Climate Corporation announced Nov. 5 it has reached the third and fourth steps as it unveiled two new products: Climate Basic and Climate Pro.
Climate Basic is a free mobile service that provides farmers with newfound insights. They can track up-to-the-minute, field-level information such as current and future weather, soil and crop growth stage information. They can also add notes and set alerts for each field. For example, the rainfall tracker tool blends data for rainfall accumulation, soil type, temperature, humidity, wind speed and more to show which fields are workable and which ones are still too wet.
"It’s hyper-local data done on a mass scale," Ethington says.
Ethington says it’s easy to get started – simply search for individual fields by several methods (example: ZIP code), point and click on a field, name it, and start to track various layers of data almost immediately.
The Climate Corporation also announced a premium suite of digital tools collectively called Climate Pro that takes the data all the way to the recommendation phase. It helps customers determine optimal planting date, nitrogen rate and timing, crop pest recommendations, harvest timing and more.
Using the Harvest Advisor tool as an example, Ethington says: "Instead of guessing which fields are ready for harvest, we can give an indication of when each field will be at the target grain moisture. By the 2014 harvest, we will also be able to look at the cost of leaving a crop in the field versus grain-drying costs. So at that point, we can project which range of dates you can harvest for the best profit."
This process should enhance a farmer’s decision-making abilities rather than take him or her out of the equation, says David Friedberg, CEO.
"Instead of a gut check, let’s give you data and recommendations to make better decisions," he says. "Ultimately, farming has a lot to do with mathematics, statistics and probability."