The New York Times recently ran a great article entitled “Working the Land and the Data“.  The article highlights how important the cloud, big data, and software generally is becoming to the cultivation of massive crops such as soybeans and corn.  If you have not been to a commercial farm since 2000, you really should find a way to go.  (That sounds crazy to most city folk, but I’m half Hoosier and Half Illinoisan, so farming is never far from my heart.)

The article points out that planters, combines, and harvesters on many farms now have GPS equipment, soil monitoring sensors, and other technology that allows soil composition,  yield, and fertilizer to be measured in increments of tiny micro-fields (15o sq. ft).   While not mentioned in the article, there are also cloud benchmarking services, like Farmlink, to help farmers compare their performance to theoretical yields at this micro-field level.  The article also mentions that much of the corn is genetically modified (GMO) to resist pests and remain pesticide tolerant.  If you have ever seen GMO seed being opened by a farmer, it reminds you of opening shrink-wrapped software.  The farmer signs a license basically not to “copy the seeds” and to abide by all the rules the manufacturer has set.  It’s software in the form of plant DNA.

The article included a great graphic that the Tom family (whose farm was featured in the article) had on their whiteboard (apparently even farms have whiteboards now.)  The diagram is a great summary of the platform of cloud software and cloud-enabled tools farms are ensconced in these days.

Diagram showing how cloud-based Tom Farms is

I can’t describe the platform of cloud farm computing any better than that.  Everything but the corn itself is connected to the cloud!  Note the connections to:

  • the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where farmers can, and do, actively hedge their crop prices
  • Climate Corporation which provides crop insurance as well as cloud software tools for precision farming (now owned by Monsanto)
  • SST which is another software provider to farms

If Tom Farms produced high-end meats or heirloom vegetables, they might also be connected to a plethora of new sites that would help them sell directly to restaurants or consumers, like Farmigo, Farmer’s Web, Plovgh, Local Orbit, or Sourcery, just to name a few.

In short, there’s almost nothing a farmer can’t do in the cloud these days.  And that includes finding love!

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