Your fields can tell you a lot if you know where to look

    Climate Corporation, an ag-tech company that develops resources to support farmers in making data driven decisions, was the host for the Chicago Farmers’ March 12 meeting. Located at 1330 W. Fulton Market Street, in the West Loop area, Climate Corporation is a neighbor to Google and McDonald’s corporate offices. It is a Platinum Level sponsor of TCF.

    Climate Corporation’s Craig Rupp, senior director of engineering, and Patrick Dumstorff, market developer lead, gave TCF an overview of the company’s workings as we dined on a buffet luncheon in Climate Corporation’s dining room.

    Climate Corporation began life as 640 Labs in October 2012. It derived its name from the number of acres in a square mile, according to Rupp. Its accomplishment became attractive enough to gain the attention of Monsanto and was acquired by that company in December 2014. It moved into its current headquarters this past October. A subsidiary of Monsanto, Climate Corporation operates as an independent company. Any data it collects is not shared with Monsanto.

    “We are doing things with technology that have been in use for a while, but are new to agriculture,” related Dumstorff as he displayed the drive to the company’s Climate FieldView Plus, which has the ability through the drive to acquire machine data, such as RPM, speed and temperature, and agronomic data that include seeds/acre, gallons/acre, and bushels/acre. The Climate FieldView Plus is in place on farms throughout the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Europe, according to Rupp.

    The drive, which is a black metal apparatus that is about three inches in diameter, connects to the “nervous system” of the farm machinery’s internet, said Dumstorff, and it grabs data from the implement to which it has been affixed. The field data it acquires can be streamed directly from the equipment, manually uploaded to a thumb drive or iPad or transferred to another system such as the Cloud. In addition to the data that the program gathers, it will soon have the ability to produce image based yield maps that would inform farmers how many pounds of a crop are coming off a field, for example.

    In response to an audience member’s question, Rupp said that the cost of the Climate FieldView Plus program is $1,000 per year and the cost of the drive is $250.

    Rupp explained that he monitors advanced technologies and keeps aware of the development of autonomous robots. “I look to see where the industry is going,” said Rupp as he showed a brief video of recently developed autonomous robots at work. There were instances of robots planting seeds, thinning a lettuce crop (by oversaturating the plant with fertilizer), and cultivating soil.

    “This is what is coming and Climate will be involved,” said Rupp. “Think of Climate as the Amazon of agriculture. We’re the data storage warehouse coupled with data analytics. Our vision is to couple our platform with agriculture robotics. The agronomic insights would come from us.”

    In response to a question about the possibility of cyber security threats to the platform, Rupp said that Monsanto is extremely sensitive to privacy and has a firewall to protect data. Additionally, standards are being developed that would ensure even greater security.

    It was noted that with the increasing use of technology in agriculture, the farmer has to be a scientist as well as an agriculturist. However, that does not alter the farmer’s connection to his work.

    Rupp said, “I grew up on a farm. Climate is a fascinating company to work for. I spend every working moment ultimately focused on the same problems my father worked on. I always tell people that we have the best customers. Farmers are salt-of-the-earth people - genuine, honest, and really nice.”