Farming crops and computer software engineering. Not two fields that you usually think of as symbiotic, huh? Yet the difference between having a bounty of tomatoes to choose from at the farmer’s market and just a handful is often due to the type of data technology that farmers can access.
That’s where FarmLogs comes in.
No, FarmLogs aren’t campfire necessities for making s’mores. Far from it. FarmLogs is a data science company co-founded by 26-year-old Jesse Vollmar to help farmers become more efficient and profitable (which means more food for us, too).
The premise is simple. Analyze data to inform farmers about how much seed, water or fertilizer is needed for their crops every year. By not using too much of a resource and wasting it, or using too little of a resource and having insufficient crops, farms become more profitable.
Vollmar knows a thing or two about farming and technology. He’s worked in his family’s fifth-generation farm in Michigan. He also formed an IT consulting company after teaching himself software design in high school. FarmLogs is just a logical combination of his life experiences.
Farm machinery comes with built-in sensors nowadays. Those sensors track information that’s necessary for healthy crops. So, FarmLogs analyzes the data from those sensors, such as rainfall or soil composition, and alerts farmers to the conditions. Farmers can look at satellite maps of their fields, with graph charts showing necessary calculations such as heat stress over several days, growth charts and alerts to crop health.
There is even an app for calculations so that a farmer is never far from their data (and crops), and a GPS function so that activities in the field are recorded automatically. The process is called “precision agriculture,” rather than sowing seeds and wondering what will happen. It was a $1.5 billion dollar industry in 2014, according to IBISWorld, and it’s only getting bigger.
In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Vollmar said that in January 2014, about 5% of U.S. row-crop farms were using his company’s software. That figure tripled within six months, and by early 2015, FarmLogs said that it was managing $12 billion in crops.
Images courtesy of Farmlogs.