Agribusiness giant Monsanto plans to acquire The Climate Corporation for approximately $930 million.
The intention is to integrate The Climate Corporation’s agriculture and weather analytics into Monsanto’s research-and-development vertical, with an eye toward developing software that can better predict crop yields.
The Climate Corporation’s analytics bring together a variety of datasets, including weather monitoring and agronomic data modeling. Its scientists also build high-resolution weather simulations. Despite the acquisition, the company will apparently continue to maintain its software products, including an online service dedicated to crop planning and monitoring.
While Monsanto is best known for its focus on genetically modified crops (a source of significant controversy in environmental circles), the company has also spent the past several years building out a significant analytics portfolio, mostly via acquisitions. In 2012 it purchased Precision Planting, which—like The Climate Corporation—uses software as a way to make farming techniques more efficient; Monsanto integrated its assets into its Integrated Farming Systems and FieldScripts software (which relies on algorithms to tell farmers where to plant corn hybrids).
In addition to building out its own software portfolio, Monsanto plans on funding $150 million in IT startups via its Growth Ventures division; most of that money will go to analytics and biotech research. In June, Monsanto Entrepreneur in Residence Jim McCarter told an audience at a St. Louis tech incubator that analytics were integral to the company’s goal of doubling crop yields by 2030.
“IT is becoming increasingly central to what we do, and we are integrating IT into all aspects of our business now,” McCarter said. “Monsanto has become a data-driven culture.” The company already has multiple petabytes of data on-hand, and expects that load to double roughly every 16 months. Much of what fills Monsanto’s data storage comes from its genomic research, photographic imagery of crop fields, and the phenotypes of the millions of DNA structures that constitute the plants in its portfolio.
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