Now Reading: Why “Hacking” is Important for Digital Farming in a Way You Might Not Expect Harvest Results and What it Signals for Upcoming Innovation

Why "Hacking" is Important for Digital Farming in a Way You Might Not Expect
Harvest Results and What it Signals for Upcoming Innovation

by Sam Eathington, Chief Science Officer, The Climate Corporation

January 8, 2019


Did you “hack” your harvest opportunity this year? Or, put it another way, as you watched the yield monitor and took stock of the season’s performance, did the digital tools, inputs, and practices you used pay off?

In the tech world, a key driver of progress comes from this hacking mindset. “How can we make that program run better?” “What’s a quicker way to compute that result?” “How do we scale this new technology to all our customers seamlessly?” At The Climate Corporation, we even put on employee hackathons as part of our agile approach to research and development.

While I used to see “hacking” only in the context of a malicious data breach, today I also see it as synonymous with innovation. And that’s a core focus for us at Climate - how we can use data science tools and insights to help you optimize yield.

Cracking the Code for Farming

The 2018 growing season marked the first time nearly half of our customers used Climate FieldView™ to run split planting trials. And we’ve seen more customers use yield analytics to gain data-based insight into their crop management decisions as planning for next season ramps up.

Cracking the code on the right mix of products and practices for each field - and unique regions in those fields - is no easy task. But our team of researchers, digital agronomists, data scientists, and software engineers are doing just that. And we have some promising harvest results to share.

Seed Advisor Delivers Bushels with FieldView Innovators

Seed Advisor, a predictive seed selection and placement technology, delivered strong results in our second season of testing with customers. Our first Seed Advisor harvest results featured a hefty +6 bushel per acre yield advantage with a nearly 80 percent win rate.

Fast forward through another harvest of our largest customer field trial on roughly 100,000 acres, and we learned more about what Seed Advisor can deliver.

FieldView customer harvesting Seed Advisor trials.

On the side-by-side trials where Seed Advisor recommendations were tested against farmer selections, Seed Advisor delivered an average bushel per acre yield advantage of 9.1 with a win rate of more than 80 percent. That’s about a 50 percent increase in bushel advantage from our field trials in 2017. From my seat leading scientific innovation for FieldView, this is an incredibly powerful result, and I can’t wait for more customers to experience the power of predictive technologies in farming.

[Listen to “The Age of Digital Agriculture” podcast for more on Seed Advisor.]

Looking ahead, we’re enthusiastic about building more momentum with the expanded pre-commercial testing of Seed Advisor. This spring we’re partnering with more than 50 seed dealers and hundreds of farmers as part of our FieldView Innovators program designed to bring products through the last mile of development before commercialization.

More Agriculture Innovation on the Horizon

Predictive technology doesn’t end at the planter. Increased access to in-field data enhances the sophistication of our tools throughout the season.

For example, we’ve made significant progress in understanding when fungicide applications will pay off. Currently in testing, our fungicide model incorporates our disease risk engine that uses real-time weather, field management, and seed characteristics to predict occurrence of disease at an accuracy rate of more than 80% percent. Integrating models, in this case for fungicide and disease, allows us to develop predictive technology that helps identify root causes and opportunities to protect yield in support of your operation’s bottom line.

While more testing and development are needed before a tool like this is launched in FieldView, it’s another example of how agronomic expertise and advanced algorithms are helping us better understand the unique physiology and environment in each field in real-time. These insights are the keys to “hacking” harvest by delivering tailored insights to optimize yield.

Just like you, our research teams and analysts are preparing for next season. We’re unpacking data, validating models, and advancing predictive tools one step closer to market. Seed advisor and our fungicide model are just two of the many R&D projects we’re advancing this cycle. I look forward to updating you again on our progress and highlights.

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.