Syngenta yesterday announced its acquisition of FarmShots, a North Carolina-based data company that assesses plant health and other farm conditions. The acquisition marks the latest move by seed and ag-chemical companies to grow their presence in the farm data sector.
The research firm CB Insights says investors put more than $700 million into agricultural-technology companies in 2017, far more than the combined $565 million of the two preceding years, said the Financial Times.
EU regulators are looking "very carefully" at competition issues in Bayer's proposed purchase of Monsanto to make sure farmers will have a choice of products at affordable prices, said Bloomberg. The wire service said Bayer, based in Germany, was to receive a so-called statement of objections as soon as this week, which could lead the companies to offer a package of concessions.
A three-member team of engineers in Britain, working as the Hands-Free Hectare initiative, are "the first people in the world to grow, tend and harvest a crop without direct human intervention," says The New Yorker. The engineers say their underfunded experiment with a plot of barley shows the potential of autonomous agriculture, in which machines work the field without farmers at the steering wheel.
John Deere’s $305 million purchase of Blue River Technology, “a startup that makes robots capable of identifying unwanted plants, and shooting them with deadly, high-precision squirts of herbicide,” is yet another indication of the “growing appetite for high tech in agriculture,” says Wired.
Farmers, especially big operators, may be slightly more wired into the internet than rural Americans overall, and the urban-rural digital divide is narrowing, says a USDA report that provides a comparison with other measurements of the United States online. Based on a biennial survey of farmers, the USDA said 71 percent of U.S. farms have internet access.
A large-scale hog operation in Iowa will use positive pressure filtration, the same technology used by hospitals and manufacturers to avoid contamination, “to help prevent the spread of deadly viruses,” says Successful Farming.
Farmers are calling for free access to the software that runs their tractors and other farm equipment. "You're paying for the metal but the electronic parts technically you don't own it. They do," says Kyle Schwarting, a farmer in southeast Nebraska.
The owners of a one-acre greenhouse in London, New Hampshire rely on automation to reduce the risk of contaminating the greens that go into its packages of lettuce blends, says Produce Retailer. "From seeding to harvest to packaging, no one touches anything" at lef Farms, which sold its first order in January.