Applying Data Science to Enhance Farming Practices
February 24, 2015
Name: Erik Andrejko
Title: Director of Science, Head of Data Science at The Climate Corporation
Education: PhD, Mathematics, University of Wisconsin
Background: Prior to Climate, Erik spent several years as a software engineer building large-scale computing and storage systems for technology startups.
Data science is the combination of three different areas of expertise: computer science; physical sciences like agronomy, crop science and soil hydrology; and statistics. Erik Andrejko leads the data science team that builds the mathematical models that power the Climate Technology Platform.
Q: What makes you interested in the agricultural industry?
A: There’s a real need to increase worldwide agricultural production, and I feel we all need to do our part to help meet that demand. I am most interested in applying my skills to help improve sustainable agriculture because of the potential for real-world impact.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working for Climate?
A: Climate has a great mix of highly motivated, smart people from diverse backgrounds all collaborating to help farmers produce more on the same number of acres. I’m excited to be able to apply data science to help solve important problems as they pertain to agriculture, but most importantly, empowering farmers with these emerging technologies.
Q: How does Climate use data science?
A: We work together to analyze the complex interactions in the field to help farmers answer the question: What does this information tell me about how I can make better decisions for the future? Data science ultimately results in the creation of a predictive model. I like to think of models as something you can ask questions of and get useful information back. For example, each growing season farmers ask, “Based on how much rain I’ve had this season and the rain I’m likely to get for the remainder of the season, what’s my risk of running short on nitrogen for my crop?” Our Climate Pro™ Nitrogen Advisor presents the predictive model to help farmers answer that question. With this tool, farmers can see a range of available nitrogen in the soil and track it throughout the season.
Q: How can the application of data-science-driven tools benefit farmers?
A: These tools are designed to ultimately increase the efficiency of a farmer’s operation. They can also provide the opportunity to increase yields by identifying where management practices can be adjusted or improved, or where inputs could be used more efficiently.
All of the information we analyze at Climate begins and ends with a farmer’s field. We use data from every interaction taking place in the field to build our models — interactions between the soil and the plant, the plant and the weather, and many other interactions that impact yield. These models drive our tools and provide insights to the farmer, helping with key decisions, like how much nitrogen to apply.
Q: How do data science technologies fit into your vision for the future of agriculture?
A: I believe the future of agriculture will be shaped by continued improvements in efficiency. By more effectively applying the advancements that have come from the green and biotech revolutions, we can continue to see yield increases across the world. We can use data science to drive agronomic practice improvements that enhance existing technologies, like advanced seed genetics. Data science technologies can build upon the yield potential already present in each seed by providing farmers with actionable insights they can use to drive efficiency improvements on their operations, getting the most out of every single plant.
Q: How can farmers get more information about Climate services?
A: Farmers can talk to dealers and advisors who can help them learn more about using Climate services. There is a dealer locator tool at www.climatepro2015.com.