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DuPont, Deere launch precision farming to challenge Monsanto

  • Published Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, at 12 a.m.

DuPont Pioneer, the agricultural seed unit of DuPont, said Friday that it has aligned with farm machinery company Deere & Co in a race against rival Monsanto Co. to provide farmers with enhanced “precision agriculture” analyses aimed at maximizing crop production.

The programs these companies will roll out next year will give farmers guidance on a number of field management decisions, including planting, crop treatment, pest control and even the best time to harvest.

Officials with DuPont Pioneer said customers using its new precision agronomy software will be able to move data wirelessly through a fledgling wireless transfer system offered by Deere, speeding response times for data-driven recommendations Pioneer is rolling out in new “Field360” products next year.

Farmers can receive field-specific information that can help them with an array of decisions related to planting, field management and harvesting to try to maximize crop yields, according to DuPont Pioneer Director of Services Joe Foresman.

In the past, Pioneer has focused on counseling farmers on the best seed to plant for their particular farms. But the deal with Deere is the latest in a series of moves by both Pioneer and rival Monsanto Co. to turn farm-related data analyses into new profit streams by incorporating analytics on an array of data points, including soil types, fungicide application timing, weather patterns and pest management.

The precision agriculture approach uses computer technology and the global positioning system to ensure that seeds, fertilizer and chemicals are applied correctly.

The move by DuPont Pioneer to align with Deere comes after Monsanto on Nov. 1 completed its acquisition of The Climate Corp., spending nearly $1billion to buy the weather data and modeling technology company. That followed Monsanto's purchase in 2012 of Precision Planting Inc.

Though it will not initially incorporate the climate data, Monsanto plans to launch its FieldScripts analytics program in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota in 2014 priced at about $10 per acre.

Both companies say the future of farming and increased food production will be closely tied to sophisticated analyses of data to let farmers know what types of seed work best in certain fields, where in a field they might want to plant more seed or less, where they might have better moisture or more need for chemical treatments and what type of weather events they might expect.

How much in revenue these data-driven product lines might translate to for the seed companies is still unknown.

“As we build and demonstrate value for the farmer it creates that opportunity for us to have value recognized,” said Foresman. “It's really a good foundation to build from.”

Edward Jones analyst Matt Arnold, who tracks the sector, said the value proposition is still murky.

“We think it is too early to tell how meaningful the revenue opportunity is in this business, or who is poised to prevail as the market leader,” Arnold said.

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