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September 25, 2015

Agriculture analytics offers fertile ground for Monsanto growth

Analysis: Are customers opting for industry specific analytics?

By James Nunns

Monsanto is planning to enter the Big Data market, focusing on agriculture.

The agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company has been meeting with a large number of tech start-ups in recent months, apparently with plans to acquire some of them.

Appearing to have moved on from its abandoned $46 billion bid to buy Syngenta AG, the company now seems to be following in the footsteps of the likes of GE and Aria Systems, both of whom have created solutions dedicated to their field.

Robert T. Fraley, CTO, Monsanto, told Reuters: "We transformed from industrial chemical company to a biotech company, then to a seeds company. Now, we’re transforming again."

Plans for the company include offering software and hardware tools that use data to help boost crop yields. This can include data on soil chemistry and intelligent seed choices.

Based on some previous acquisitions, it could be suggested that the company has been planning this shift for a while.

In 2012, the company purchased Precision Planting for $210 million; the company produces computer hardware and software that is designed to increase the yield and productivity of crops through more accurate planting.

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In 2013, Monsanto purchased Climate Corp for $930 million; the company aims to make more accurate local weather forecasts for farmers, based on data modelling and historical data.

While the move is interesting, it won’t necessarily be easy for the company as it enters an already competitive field.

Accenture offers a Precision Agriculture Service and the Connected Crop Solution, and the space is also flooded with start-ups. Agrilyst for example, provides an online platform for data analytics to greenhouse growers.

What this shift highlights, is a growing move from market specific companies to offer dedicated services.

Customers may look to these solutions rather than a general analytics platform that may not be specifically tweaked to suit their needs.

Mathias Golombek, CTO, EXASOL, told CBR about why customers are looking to shift to dedicated solutions: "They cannot cope anymore with a speed which is not fulfilling their requirements; they need specific solutions for certain problems."

This isn’t to say that all customers will opt for a dedicated solution, but as sector specific giants like Monsanto move into the analytics field, it may become more difficult for analytics companies to compete.

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