Monsanto highlights ‘banner year’ for The Climate Corporation

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Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Apgar Farms representative Tom Austin demonstrates some of the data available on The Climate Corporation app used at the farm's operation near Tuscola, Ill., on June 10, 2015.

Calling 2016 a “banner year” for Monsanto’s The Climate Corporation, company executives announced during a special conference call held last week that the digital ag platform had more than 100 million total farmland acres enrolled in its services.

Since Monsanto bought The Climate Corporation in 2013 for about $930 million, the big-data firm has unveiled dozens of new projects designed to help farmers select seeds, manage nutrients and evaluate field heath in real time.

Farmers can make 40 or more different choices during the growing season, according to company estimates.

“Our research is aimed at improving farmer or grower productivity and sustainability regardless, really, of where they farm or what size of land they farm or what agriculture practices they choose in their operation,” said Monsanto Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley during the Jan. 5 conference call.

Of its enrolled farmland stock, the company saw financial returns from 14 million acres, as it offers some of its services to farmers at no cost.

Still, 2016’s paid acreage was a sharp increase compared to a few years prior when Monsanto’s data firm had just 5 million paid acres enrolled.

The Climate Corporation is targeting 25 million paid acres in 2017, said Michael Stern, the firm’s president.

“We’re well on our way to achieving that target,” Stern said.

In August, The Climate Corporation acquired VitalFields, a European farm management software company based in Estonia. Among its products, VitalFields offers farmers tools to track crop inputs and ensure compliance with the European Union’s strict environmental standards.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

In December, The Climate Corporation launched its Climate FieldView Plus platform in eastern Canada. The Climate FieldView platform allows farmers to collect data from the soil and atmosphere around their farms so they can better understand and adapt to field variability.

In the short-term, Stern said that The Climate corporation will push for additional expansion in Canada and Brazil, where its platforms are already being tested out by about 80 growers across 500,000 acres.

On a more long-term scale, Stern said he hopes the firm will look to make advancements in Argentina, Australia, Europe and South Africa.

“The mission of The Climate Corporation is to help all the world’s farmers sustainably improve productivity through the use of digital tools,” he said.

U.S. lobbying disclosure records show that Monsanto has lobbied on issues that have included “data services” every year since it purchased The Climate Corporation in 2013.


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