Now Reading: The Next Evolution of Digital Farming Technology

The Next Evolution of Digital Farming Technology

by Sam Eathington, Chief Science Officer, The Climate Corporation

August 28, 2018

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What if I told you we’d extended the bounds of what’s possible with digital farming tools?

An advancement that takes some of the guesswork out of the planting equation. A seed selection and placement technology that’s currently on more than 100,000 acres in pre-commercial testing with select customers, and that’s backed by the industry’s largest proprietary seed genetics database and the largest, most sophisticated field-testing network.

Seed Advisor is our first predictive, data science-driven tool designed to provide seed dealers with a ranked hybrid recommendation by field and optimal seeding rate by zone to help their farmer customers manage risk and maximize yield.

The Science Behind Seed Advisor

I’m an eighth generation farmer, and my family has been farming the same land in Illinois for more than 150 years - we’re as pragmatic as they come. After sharing this latest development in our Climate FieldView™ innovation pipeline, I suspect you might be thinking, “Sounds great, but does it work?”

Yes, it works! Our new seed selection and placement technology is a combination of a couple of projects from our innovation pipeline, and it has demonstrated an average 6 bushels an acre yield advantage and a nearly 80 percent win rate in its first year of farmer field testing.

This podcast from Tonya Ehlmann, our science placement lead, shares more detail about the science behind Seed Advisor.

Listen to the "How Machine Learning Is Changing Seed Selection" podcast now

I expect your next question might be, “But how do you know it really works?” That’s perhaps the most important question we constantly ask ourselves for each of the dozens of projects we’re advancing in our innovation pipeline. Efficacy and value for our customers are essential.

Bringing Digital Farming Products to Market

To continue to lead the industry as the digital farming platform of choice, we’ve invested heavily in research and development. Just as importantly, we’ve put in place rigorous internal standards and product development steps to help ensure new tools hit the ground running.

  • Build It: It starts with extending the bounds of what’s possible in farming by leveraging leading data science methods to build data models. We applied machine learning techniques to train our Seed Advisor model using the industry’s largest proprietary seed genetics database.
  • Validate It: Next, we took Seed Advisor out of the virtual lab and ran it head-to-head against more than 4 million acres of historical, real farm performance data in Climate FieldView™.
  • Test It: In its first year of field testing in 2017, Seed Advisor demonstrated an average advantage of 6 bushels per acre with a nearly 80 percent win rate. In 2018, we are testing it with farmers on more than 100,000 acres of side-by-side trials. In the 2019 pre-commercial test, with the FieldView Innovators program, dealers are targeting approximately 200 farmer participants, extending the testing acreage footprint substantially.

After model validation against real-world data and extensive in-field testing, we are targeting a launch of Seed Advisor for fall of 2019 across the U.S., pending the results of this year’s FieldView Innovators program.

The FieldView Innovation Pipeline is Strong

We’ve achieved significant progress since our last innovation pipeline update in many areas of digital farming science, including: fertility, yield analytics, measurements, and field insights. These are just a few highlights among a wide range of digital farming innovations we’re hard at work developing for FieldView.

  • Nitrogen Management: We continue to push the limits of data science in agriculture to uncover value in variable rate nitrogen application through exploration of automated experiments. Today customers experience an average savings of $12.31 per acre* using the FieldView nitrogen management tool.
  • Real-Time Disease Identification: We’ve expanded our disease identification technology to identify 12 different corn and soybean diseases through real-time image analysis.
  • Managing Disease Risk: Protecting crops from disease threats can be a challenge, with seed genetics, environmental conditions, and pathogen presence all playing a role. We’re developing a digital farming technology to offer farmers advance warning. Currently in validation testing, the tool shows promising results in successfully predicting Gray Leaf Spot in corn.
  • Sensor-Enabled Agronomics: With the immense potential of sensors for real-time agronomic insights, we’ve advanced our research of equipment-mounted sensors for use during routine equipment passes through the field.

More Farmers Getting Their Data in One Place

Last, but not least, we’re continuing to make advancements on our commitment to help customers get all their data in one place and ensure it’s working for them. We continue to make progress with software and equipment compatibility - currently covering 80 percent of both markets.

As accessibility, ease of use, and the sophistication of digital farming tools continue to evolve, more farmers will have the opportunity to get the most out of each corner of every field with science-driven insights and tools that deliver value to their business.

*Assumptions: Nitrogen cost is $0.40. Commodity price $3.20. Median value is $10.10/ac for beta users. Win rate is over 90% of nitrogen managed to the zone level

About The Author
Sam leads the Science organization at The Climate Corporation, focusing on research and development in data science, measurement and field research. He brings more than two decades of experience in plant breeding and global agricultural development, contributing to nearly 60 publications and patents related to agricultural technology. Sam holds a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in genetics and plant breeding from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

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