Agriculture and algorithms

Agriculture and algorithms

Big data - the tech industry's latest darling is now being applied to agriculture as well.

From The Economist:

"The Climate Corporation, a start-up based in Silicon Valley, is collecting all kinds of information—including on weather patterns, climate trends and soil characteristics—and analyses the data down to an individual field. These insights are then used to offer farmers tailored insurance policies against the damage from extreme weather events.

Premiums for the company’s “Total Weather Insurance” (TWI) plans depend on crop and location. On average, they cost about $30 an acre annually, some 3% of the land’s revenue. In case of extreme weather at the wrong time of the season, The Climate Corporation pays out up to $300 per acre (the TWI is designed to complement federal crop insurance programmes in America, which provide only limited cover). In contrast to existing government schemes, farmers don’t have to prove actual losses. Payouts are triggered automatically without paperwork when the firm’s data show that writing a check is justified.

“We are not predicting the weather. We estimate the likelihood of unusual weather events and their potential impact on every single field in the US within the next two years”, explains David Friedberg, the firm’s founder and chief executive. To do this, it has to be good at both analysing huge amounts of data and calculating risk. To help with the number crunching, Mr Friedberg, an astrophysicist who once worked for Google, has hired a team of “quants”, or “quantitative analysts”, from university graduate programs in areas including statistics, applied mathematics and economics."

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