Monsanto bets nearly $1 billion on big data analytics

Data science is the next big thing for agriculture, according to Monsanto

Agribusiness giant Monsanto is paying US$930 million to acquire the Climate Corporation, maker of a software platform that crunches weather-related data in order to help farmers more effectively grow crops.

"Everyone benefits when farmers are able to produce more with fewer resources," Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said in a statement released Wednesday.

Founded in 2006, the Climate Corporation has built a platform that pulls together "hyper-local weather monitoring, agronomic data modeling, and high-resolution weather simulations," according to a statement.

The goal is to give farm operators the information they need to choose the right insurance coverage to protect their profits against the advent of bad weather. The Climate Corporation itself offers specialized insurance policies.

Data science could be a $20 billion market "beyond Monsanto's core focus today," the company said.

The Climate Corporation's founders include a number of former Google employees. Its initial name was WeatherBill.

Rival seed producer DuPont Pioneer has also been racing to bring specialized data-analysis software to market. Its Pioneer Field360 platform, announced earlier this year, is a subscription service that combines weather data with interactive field maps and tools for tracking their growth.

The products reflect a continuing move toward vertical applications in the broader "big data" analytics market.

Big data refers to the massive amounts and varieties of information, particularly in unstructured form, being generated by websites, sensors, social media and other sources. While programming frameworks such as Hadoop are widely used to analyze these large data sets, vendors are moving quickly to provide big data applications for various industries that take care of the heavy lifting.

On Monday, IBM announced it would acquire the Now Factory, maker of analytic software for communication services providers. Terms of that deal were not disclosed.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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