Precision ag company partners with IBM’s Weather Company

The PE-backed company hopes improved weather data and analytics will set it apart from a growing precision agri field.

Private equity-backed precision agriculture company Farmers Edge has signed a with IBM-owned The Weather Company to improve hyperlocal weather data collectio on its customers’ farms.

Farmers Edge sells technology to collect and evaluate data on farming activities. The company raised C$58 million ($43.7 million; €43.7 million) in January and investors include Japanese trading company Mitsui, sustainable investing fund Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers (KPCB), the Green Growth Fund, and real estate company Osmington.

The new partnership will allow Farmers Edge to apply The Weather Company’s forecasting to data collected from weather stations on customers’ farms, so that farmers will have site-specific weather modelling, Farmers Edge chief executive Wade Barnes told Agri Investor. He said that the terms of the agreement were “purely commercial” with no equity exchanged between the two companies, and declined to share further financial details.

“Our view is that whether you’re a farmer in Saskatchewan, Iowa, Mato Grasso or New South Wales, you should get exactly the same weather experience,” he said. “The whole industry is focused on what the weather does.” The company says the regions into which it is expanding are challenged by poor weather reporting, which is valuable in helping farmers plan for weather events as well as being a useful tool for insurance companies to validate weather damage claims.

“In Canada the existing weather station network is pretty sparse, as is the case in some parts of the US. We’re also focused on other markets such as Brazil, Russia and Australia. And those weather networks are very spread apart as well,” said Barnes. “I think that most of the other companies in the precision ag side of things are going to really struggle to operate outside of the five or six major [US] corn states and be able to operate in more of a data-sparse environment.”

The new partnership also gives The Weather Company, which owns the Weather Channel, and the website Weather Underground, exposure to the agriculture sector and access to Farmers Edge on-site data to improve its own forecasting abilities.

“The Weather Company gets to pull the data from [our weather stations] more on an aggregated level, but not with the ability of being able to connect into the field-centric side,” said Barnes.