The Real Value of Farm Data
Sid Gorham | September 11, 2015
Granular was featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article about farmers profiting from data generated on their farms. I wanted to expand on the ideas explored in that article and Granular’s perspective on the applications for farm data. Before co-founding Granular, I was an executive at Nielsen, a $6 billion global company that sells data across a wide variety of industries. Nielsen collects and sells information on TV viewership (the famous “Nielsen Ratings”), grocery store purchases, website traffic, radio listenership and many, many other things. In my role at Nielsen, I learned a lot about how data can help certain industries operate more efficiently.
When I look at the opportunity for data in the agriculture industry, I see three main applications:
1. Data For Better Management Decisions
The best use of data from any individual farm is to help that same farm operate more profitably. Our goal at Granular is to make sure every customer measures their business accurately and uses their data to make better decisions, every day and every season. Furthermore, we believe the operational, financial and agronomic data that Granular captures is each farm’s intellectual property (IP), and one of its most valuable assets. The best farms in the business understand this already and are using Granular to share, protect, and enhance their IP.
2. Data to Learn from Peers
Farmers have historically shared experiences and learned from each other. This back-and-forth knowledge sharing has traditionally been done informally and, more recently, through structured farmer peer groups. By bringing together the best (most professional, growth-oriented) farms in North America on a common software platform, Granular is creating a technology-enabled peer group. Through the Granular software platform our customers are able to accurately and anonymously benchmark their performance against peer farms every day. Granular customers don’t have to wait for a winter meeting to learn from peers or travel somewhere else – they can do it every day from their office by comparing anonymized metrics collected in the software (e.g. What is the average number combine days needed to complete harvest?, or What’s the average price paid per bag of DKC43-46 this season?).
3. Data in Supply Chains
Granular is also helping its customers profit from sharing data off the farm and beyond the Granular peer network. Professional farms understand that access to capital and land is critical to their success and are using Granular to share timely, accurate and complete information with lenders and landlords. By providing a professional interface to access their data, Granular customers make their businesses more competitive (e.g. accessing land at the right price, getting better rates on operating lines). Over the longer term, Granular also sees an opportunity to license data to industry suppliers on an aggregated and anonymized basis (e.g. What is the Monsanto vs. Pioneer hybrid market share on 7,000-10,000 acre farms?). Granular is the only company in the industry that has committed to share the profits from this type of data licensing back with its customers.
Ultimately, nobody can fully predict how data and analytical tools will change farming in the future. However, it is important that farms choose technology partners that they trust to help them navigate this new landscape. Many ag technology companies are giving away their products for free (or at a very low price) today in the hope of discovering a viable business model in the future. This puts them at high risk of needing to do something bold with your data or sell their companies to input suppliers in order to survive. From day 1, it’s been my priority at Granular to make sure we have a business model that works – we build great farm management software and sell it to hundreds of leading farms at a fair and consistent price. We are excited about the future of farm data, but we will pursue those opportunities in very close coordination with our customers because ultimately it’s their data, and they are the foundation of our business.
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