Friday, June 6, 2014

Digital agriculture technosphere

I have two rather large blog posts which I think I will hold over until September this year, giving me a chance to get them right during the summer.

However, in the meantime there is a useful little post I can contribute. The whole point of this blog has been from the very start to grapple with the emerging techno-economy, while problematising even the terms 'economy' and economics'.

While I have a fuzzy idea of the concepts I have trying to convey, without a language it gets pretty confusing.

Occasionally, however, there are glimpses onto the new emergent macro-innovation system.

The Economist May 24, did a superb article on digital agriculture.

Monsanto’s prescriptive-planting system, FieldScripts, had its first trials last year and is now on sale in four American states. Its story begins in 2006 with a Silicon Valley startup, the Climate Corporation. Set up by two former Google employees, it used remote sensing and other cartographic techniques to map every field in America (all 25m of them) and superimpose on that all the climate information that it could find. By 2010 its database contained 150 billion soil observations and 10 trillion weather-simulation points.

The Climate Corporation planned to use these data to sell crop insurance. But last October Monsanto bought the company for about $1 billion—one of the biggest takeovers of a data firm yet seen. Monsanto, the world’s largest hybrid seed producer, has a library of hundreds of thousands of seeds, and terabytes of data on their yields. By adding these to the Climate Corporation’s soil- and-weather database, it produced a map of America which says which seed grows best in which field, under what conditions. FieldScripts uses all these data to run machines made by Precision Planting, a company Monsanto bought in 2012, which makes seed drills and other devices pulled along behind tractors. Planters have changed radically since they were simple boxes that pushed seeds into the soil at fixed intervals. Some now steer themselves using GPS. Monsanto’s, loaded with data, can plant a field with different varieties at different depths and spacings, varying all this according to the weather. It is as if a farmer can know each of his plants by name. ...
So, I made the observation earlier that we are heading for economies / industries run by apps - well here we go a very clear example of that happening.