Why a farmer looks at his iPad and not the weathervane - Agrovista Profits Latest Agriculture News and Updates


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Monday, April 15, 2019

Why a farmer looks at his iPad and not the weathervane

Agri-tech is new farm paradigm; hit $6.7 b invested in the last five years

When surprise hailstorms hit 6,000 acres of Trevor Scherman’s peas, wheat, canola and lentils, his first move isn’t to his SUV to assess the damage. These days, it’s to his iPad.
Nine mini-weather stations from the Canadian firm Farmers Edge, along with daily satellite imagery from the San Francisco-based Planet, provide Scherman with an intimate and easily accessible assessment for each of his fields. The stations, which include a soil probe, measure moisture and temperature in the air and in the root zone, wind speed and direction, and even dewpoint.

Fighting bad weather

The companies are part of a wave of emerging high-tech firms helping farmers fight a historic foe — bad weather — that’s getting more capricious.
Seed sellers Bayer Ag, Syngenta AG and DowDuPont Inc are scouring the earth for more crop genes that will let them further geo-engineer plants to thrive in tough weather. “We see, right now, a new paradigm in the production of corn and soybeans,” said Al Dutcher, an extension agricultural climatologist in Lincoln, Nebraska. Technological advances are outpacing the problems.
“Investments in agriculture technology companies are growing, hitting $6.7 billion in the last five years, and the number of venture capital deals are increasing,” according to Finistere Ventures, a San Diego-based venture capital firm. Through October 2018, there were 28 deals globally for companies making sensors and smart farm equipment, and 19 for imagery companies.
Traditional seed companies are searching for ways to protect plants from climate changes and new weather patterns. They’re exploring the genetics of African corn varieties that can go weeks without water as well as South-East Asia crops that have natural guards against diseases that warmer, more humid weather encourage.

Mexican Corn

Genes that help Mexican corn flourish in high heat have already been bred for wider use by Bayer. Originally meant for farms in the US South, they are now used as far north as in Minnesota.
“For growers, really their biggest risk factor is the weather,” said Nathan Fields, Vice-President of production and sustainability at the National Corn Growers Association.

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