Harvesting Data for Farmer Profit

Harvesting Data for Farmer Profit

Farmobile aims to give farmers control of their data

The rules of farm data are yet to be written. Ag companies are seated courtside in a shiny new arena, carefully watching and waiting as circumstances shift with the latest merger or technology. On the periphery, watching the industry professionals jockeying for position, sit farmers—the creators of data gold. In an emergent data industry, they’re discovering creation and ownership are not a matched pair. Yet, one Kansas company says the time is ripe for a shift in farmers’ favor.

Farmobile of Leawood, Kan., wants to give farmers the ability to monetize data by creating an exchange where agriculture companies, commodity traders or any related industry personnel pay farmers to mine through data. 

“We think there is tremendous opportunity. Every bit of ag information that brings a price can be applied to a grower’s bottom line,” says Jason Tatge, Farmobile co-founder and CEO. “We also believe you can sell the same data to multiple companies as they compete to offer services to growers.”

As ag companies make multi-billion-dollar data purchases and push acquisitions with shareholders, Tatge believes the market is deficient when determining data value in a way that benefits growers first. He says 
Farmobile allows farmers to approach the market from a position of strength. 

“Let’s make up a number and say technology is creating $100 in ag value today,” Tatge says. “The big ag companies are trying to keep as much of this value creation as possible for themselves, in many cases about 90% or $90 of that value.”

Data customers are knocking at the door to purchase information relating to simple farming questions. Tatge wants to offer a means of direct payment for farmer data, split in half between farmer and Farmobile. If a farmer opts in, he’ll receive notification when a given company wants to purchase data. If the farmer agrees, Farmobile will facilitate the sale and perform the clearing functions.

Farmobile offers a Passive Uplink Connection (PUC) device to centralize data. The PUC device plugs into a 
diagnostic port on any equipment brand newer than 2003, automatically sending data via cellular technology. 

“There’s nothing to pair, and there’s no additional data plan,” Tatge notes. The PUC costs $1,250 per year. “We’re going to consistently create better versions, and we’ll send a new device every time there is an upgrade with no extra cost. That includes unlimited storage, all cellular fees and hardware. The PUC can be moved from the planter to sprayer to harvester.”

Producer Bob Swedburg, Owatonna, Minn., used PUC beta units during harvest in 2014 and says the ease of operation was excellent. “Historically, farmers have been on the short end of the stick. Not only have we given away our data, but in some cases, we’ve paid companies to come get it,” he says.

Wisconsin producer Andy Bensend is hoping Farmobile can make headway toward a direct data pay system. “We are excited about the prospect of marketing our data to offset the costs of our technology and data gathering equipment while knowing who we are sharing our data with,” he says.

For data to be monetized in an evolving marketplace, all parties will have to settle on a platform. Essentially, Farmobile wants to gather data from multiple sources and make it easily available to buyers. This portability, Tatge adds, will be key to achieve massive increases in productivity. 

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