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Industry Spotlight – Precision Agriculture

The application of analytics to agriculture has given rise to what is called “precision agriculture”, a science that seeks to take advantage of and use detailed information that is local in time and place. Tractors and farm equipment are being equipped with sensors and software that allow them to respond automatically to external data, and eventually transition to robotic operation. Amazon Web Services has a division devoted to agricultural applications. Farmers Business Network is a startup focused on agricultural data and the analytics needed to optimize planting decisions and the use of inputs like fertilizer. It was co-founded by Charles Baron, a former Google Program Manager, and is funded by Google’s VC arm.

Spatial data are key in agriculture (see our course Spatial Statistics for GIS Using R); Airbus has a division devoted to agriculture that focuses on the use of satellite data combined with analytics. Airbus has committed deeply to analytics; see this article on how the company uses industry-wide big data to predict part failure. Agriculture is one of the most productive and fastest growing areas for the application of drones, which, among many other things, can help spot plant infections by changes in the reflectivity of certain wavelengths of light. Timely identification of infestation can yield huge savings; see this review for more about the use of drones, and see this review for a more general review of the applications of analytics in agriculture.