Farmers Business Network: Bigger Data Sets For Better Decisions
Typically in the tech/startup world, when a major player like Google comes knocking on the Angel Investment door people start paying attention.
Back in May, Google Ventures came knocking at the door of San Carlos, CA-based startup Farmers Business Network (FBN) and led a $15 million investment round into the agronomic network that promises to “turn the world into your plot trial,” according to FBN co-founder Charles Baron.
Now substantially funded and aggregating agronomic data on millions of acres across 26 U.S. states in the heat of fall harvest season, the company says they will have millions of acres of 2015 season harvest data analyzed by Thanksgiving.
“The FBN Network works by helping growers integrate all their precision data, cleaning it, mapping it, and then providing input and benchmarking analysis from the anonymized data. The philosophy of the whole company is Farmers First, putting the power of aggregated data directly into the farmers’ hands.”
“This is democratizing farm data – by crowdsourcing, farmers create their own aggregated data set that gives them objective, farmer driven information on which to base decisions,” Baron says. “By working together with thousands of other farmers, a farmer can learn vastly more about seeds & populations, fertility, tillage, and rotational practices, than just by looking at their own acres.”
Crowdsourced Seed Intelligence & Benchmarking
One of FBN’s most popular tools for offseason tinkering when there’s snow on the ground is the FBN Seed Finder system.
Seed Finder allows farmers to explore over 900 seeds’ yields by factors like population, soil type, irrigation, panting date, rotation and precipitation. “Now farmers can see how well a seed actually performs in the real world on their soils, from tens of thousands of acres instead of a small plot,” which Baron says is unique in the fact that most seed decisions typically are based off university or company-funded plot trials.
FBN’s team will also help growers perform return-on-investment driven price to seed performance analysis. “We can help members determine which seed varieties could be the most profitable,” says Baron.
An important aspect of the FBN service is yield benchmarking. After cleaning yield files (FBN also helps post-calibrate yields), FBN benchmarks each field by numerous factors, such as their seed choice, population, rainfall, GDU’s, planting date, and soil quality. “Farmers can quickly determine where they are underperforming,” says Baron. At the end of the year, FBN generates a downloadable “Annual Report” which provides growers an analysis of their season’s results and benchmarks field by field.
Mapping & Integrating With John Deere
In October, FBN integrated with John Deere’s API to allow MyJohnDeere Operations Center users to seamlessly transfer data to FBN. “This allowed us to clean, map and benchmark yield data live, during harvest,” Baron explains. “Turning data into analysis and decisions should be frictionless, fast and easy, no mater what system they are using.”
The FBN services work with any precision monitor type and format, to help growers integrate all their systems and maps in one place. Users can also create what the company refers to as a “prescription accuracy map”, which Baron says is used in evaluating planter and plant population effectiveness.
To some, all of this may sound a bit like FBN is angling to move in on the local retail trusted advisor, as much of what FBN does is traditionally in the wheelhouse of the local agronomist. Not so fast, Baron objects.
“Many farmers depend on their local trusted advisor, and our platform offers all kinds of benefits to the local agronomist that wants to help their farmers with precision,” he says. “We can take a lot of the busy work out off the agronomist’s plate day-to-day, allowing them to focus more on the grower’s needs.”
Baron compares what FBN does in aggregating seed data to being somewhat like the Kelley’s Blue Book in used car sales. “Seed performance transparency gives the buyer and seller a better starting point for discussions.”
FBN’s Membership services cost $500 per year for unlimited crops and acres.