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Monsanto Buys Climate Corp. Envisions Big Data Farming

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the circle-of-business dept.

Earth 75

cagraham writes "Agriculture giant Monsanto has purchased the weather analytics firm Climate Corporation for over $930 Millionl. Climate Corp, a firm founded by ex-Google data scientists and software engineers, specializes in hyper-local weather prediction which they use to recommend risk-management and crop-insurance policies for farmers. Monsanto likely wants to use this technology to boost their big data farming systems, and help better market their genetically engineered crop seeds. This news comes the same day that Monsanto posted increased Q4 losses of $0.47 per share."

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75 comments

ooook..?? (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 months ago | (#45021087)

And? Why do we have a routine business sales article instead of an article on hyper-local weather forecasting?

and it's not prediction, it's forecasting.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021157)

Good point. And while we're at it, why are quarterly results relevant? Don't they have those *every* quarter? OR, are the two tied together by some sort of mysterious voodoo, hidden by a corporate conspiracy?...

Re:ooook..?? (2)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#45021219)

and it's not prediction, it's forecasting.

It'd be helpful if you could tell us the difference. I gather forecasting makes predictions/estimates of future numerical parameters over a fixed span of time such as amount of rainfall for a given area over the next day. Predictions can be more general, say, the odds of an event which triggers an insurance claim.

Re:ooook..?? (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 7 months ago | (#45021313)

It'd be helpful if you could tell us the difference.

There isn't one; the definition of forecasting is "to predict or estimate (a future event or trend)." I think he views prediction as more "crystal ball" and forecasting more "computer screen" ... but he tripped over his lack of finesse with the language and took a snarky to the knee.

Re:ooook..?? (3, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | about 7 months ago | (#45021357)

The problem is Predicting means using a computer and science where as forecasting especially weather is reaching into your ass and pulling out something. Seriously the closest weather forecasting comes at 5 days out is a rough Idea of temperature. maybe clouds if a big system is moving a big enough area.

At 48 hours out I expect weather forecasts to be about 50% correct but i still make plans the same

At 24 hours out it isn't to far off but they have trouble with more localised(county level) events.

at 1 hour out they are usually pretty spot on but then you can always look out the window yourself.

Re:ooook..?? (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#45021567)

At 48 hours out I expect weather forecasts to be about 50% correct but i still make plans the same

It depends where you live. Here in San Jose, the weather reports for the last four months have been 100% accurate. Every day they predicted "warm and sunny", and they were right. We don't look at the weather report to decide if we need an umbrella. We look at the calendar.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 7 months ago | (#45021687)

We don't look at the weather report to decide if we need an umbrella. We look at the calendar.

Same story here in Portland, Oregon... except the umbrella is sort of mandatory from October to April.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45022649)

In the Netherlands the weather is so 'random' that people can't trust the weather reports at all. We all have a rain radar application on our mobile phones and predict for ourselves when it is going to rain where we are, or how long it is going to rain.

Re:ooook..?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021863)

I just got dumber reading your post.

The problem is Predicting means using a computer and science where as forecasting especially weather is reaching into your ass and pulling out something.

I predict that you are going to die in a preventable accident if only you had been intelligent. Since I used a computer and science (I analysed your intelligence by the quality of your writing) it is more reliable than the weather forecast I read today that said it would be 19 and raining, and the weather rained a bit and hit a high of 19.7.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45022821)

I think this whole thing can be summed up thus:

1. Purchase the govt ? Done.
2. Purchase the competition? Work in Progress.
3. Purchase the analyst? DONE!
4. Profit !

Re:ooook..?? (4, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#45021337)

> Why do we have a routine business sales article

Because somebody submitted it, and Slashdot caters to the Monsanto Derangement Syndrome crowd.

Re:ooook..?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45022887)

Is there a gene for that?

Re:ooook..?? (2)

s.petry (762400) | about 7 months ago | (#45021721)

And? Why do we have a routine business sales article instead of an article on hyper-local weather forecasting?

and it's not prediction, it's forecasting.

Because Monsanto brings out lots of emotional debate? Just a hunch of course.

Another reason could be the relation to the obvious conflict of interest in Monsanto owning such a tech company.

Re:ooook..?? (2)

slick7 (1703596) | about 7 months ago | (#45022199)

Monsanto is a conflict of interest, against man and nature. They want the same capabilities as the NSA but without the constraints.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#45022635)

Monsanto is a conflict of interest, against man and nature

I know you're just trying to be witty here, but there's no obligation on the part of Monsanto to support "man and nature", hence there is no conflict of interest. I know some anti-corporatist types claim that corporations should serve some sort of public benefit or be banished.

I don't agree, partly because I don't think the above sort of people could recognize a benefit to society and partly because I think the necessities of free societies preclude that sort of onerous and nebulous burden.

Re:ooook..?? (3, Insightful)

Aryden (1872756) | about 7 months ago | (#45023007)

ah but you see, many of us believe that corporations should not be blatantly malicious. Look at Monsanto's history of abuses and you will easily see why many of us have a deep abiding distaste for them. And yes, corporations should actually server some public benefit, but not banished if they don't, just fined/taxed/penalized not given the keys to the whorehouse.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#45025893)

ah but you see, many of us believe that corporations should not be blatantly malicious.

People shouldn't be either. I guess we ought to make a law for that.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about 6 months ago | (#45031581)

ah but you see

Ah but you don't see, if an individual, living person causes harm to another, that said person faces punitive action. Such actions as law suits, indictments, prison and in the most extreme, death. How do you punish a corporation? Dissolution? No. Financial ruin? Only to the point of corporate solvency, in other words, no. Who goes to jail? The CEO? Possibly a witless stooge. The board of directors? Maybe, if it includes each and everyone of them, including silent partners and every red cent that can be traced to all of them. But what of the people and money that disappear at a moments notice when things get "dicey"?
What if...the ultimate punishment is deserved, how is that meted? I have said before and I say again, the necessity of the separation of Corporate and State is as imperative as the separation of Church and State.
When judicial punishment is warrented, a living being must be present. Shadowy, faceless, corporations that act with impunity do not cut it.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#45031915)

Ah but you don't see, if an individual, living person causes harm to another, that said person faces punitive action. Such actions as law suits, indictments, prison and in the most extreme, death. How do you punish a corporation?

The corporation doesn't act. It doesn't do anything. The people that comprise that corporation are the ones who act and who have the potential to commit harm.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

Aryden (1872756) | about 6 months ago | (#45033331)

Yes, and you see how well that is working out for our current system....

Re:ooook..?? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#45033763)

It won't work any different. Either you bring the people who cause the crimes to justice or you don't.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

Aryden (1872756) | about 6 months ago | (#45039567)

which is what we are arguing for....

Re:ooook..?? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#45041207)

The original question was "How do you punish a corporation?"

The US really does have laws where inanimate bits of property can be punished for crimes. Civil asset forfeiture targets the property not the person and it has a much lower burden of proof. So I suppose we could use that bit of law for the purpose at hand.

The only problem is that these laws happen to be horribly abusive, unconstitutional, and generates a massive conflict of interest (since for the war on drugs and some other stuff, the law enforcement agency gets to sell off the property and keep the proceeds).

So I guess I'm still where I was in this discussion. If you want to punish people for wrong doing, then do so. But if you're ranting about punishing "corporations" then you're not showing much interest in the task.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about 6 months ago | (#45040887)

The corporation doesn't act. It doesn't do anything. The people that comprise that corporation are the ones who act and who have the potential to commit harm.

Of course it acts. When it sets government policy, like the Monsanto protection act, yes it was the politicians who voted it into law, however these same politicians do not have the capacity to write extensive pro corporate policy, they just introduce it. The politicians that vote for it are usually take bribes.. er ..uh donations from the very same corporation which has very deep pockets. Yes the corporation acts. It was corporations that got the Glass-Steagal act abolished. It was the actions of the banking corporations in de-regulating the banking industry and, oh, yes, ENRON. BTW, all legal procedings on the Enron debacle were in Building 7 of the World Trade Center, oh well.
As for the faces of the corporation, good luck in exposing each and every one of them.

Re:ooook..?? (4, Insightful)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 7 months ago | (#45023361)

Given that society has granted them the enormous privilege of limited liability it's not unreasonable to expect them to serve the public good, or at the very least not make the world a worse place to live.

Re:ooook..?? (2)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#45025595)

Recall, if you can, that corporations' primary role is the efficient distribution of capital. The secondary roles are a neat and demonstrated way to organize a bunch of people and second, a set of means for legally compartmentalizing economic activity. It's not to make the world a less worse place to live. That just happens to be a happy outcome of these benefits.

Now, as I understand it, most systems of law do not require normal people to serve the public good. So why should the law require corporations, which are just tools for normal people to conduct mundane business and other activities, to do so?

Perhaps we should require you to serve the public good. If that turns out well, then we might consider enlarging the pool to other legal entities.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 6 months ago | (#45034551)

Businesses' primary role is the efficient distribution of capital. Limited liability is not required for that. Limited liability is where the state protects the business owners from any ruinous consequences of their actions. What you're saying is that they should get that huge privilege but should be allowed to behave in any way they see fit irrespective of any detrimental effects on society.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#45037819)

Businesses' primary role is the efficient distribution of capital. Limited liability is not required for that.

No, that's the role of the limited liability corporation. Businesses's primary role is to provide goods and services of value. Without corporations you have much more inefficient distribution of capital (you could have some equivalent game - it'd still be limited liability investing). But obviously, you can still have businesses.

The thing people don't get is that most people who invest in a business don't run the business and they often don't understand it. They are just providing capital.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about 7 months ago | (#45027059)

The real problem is that "public benefit" and "public good" are extremely subjective terms. I believe Monsanto has done a lot of good and has greatly benefited society by providing jobs, insulation for homes and such and a great many seeds to farmers that help me to eat.

Since corporations make profits by adding value to something and selling that something to someone, they generally only stay around if they have enough someones believing they have added enough value to be worth the price.

Re:ooook..?? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#45022399)

Another reason could be the relation to the obvious conflict of interest in Monsanto owning such a tech company.

What would be the conflict of interest? I really don't get it here. It sounds like rather straightforward integration/bundling of services.

Re:ooook..?? (2)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 7 months ago | (#45022027)

And? Why do we have a routine business sales article instead of an article on hyper-local weather forecasting?

and it's not prediction, it's forecasting.

The accuracy of current weather forecasting technology is still technically considered to be in the "Wild-Assed Guess" category.

Monsanto rules the US (5, Insightful)

Valentinial (2980593) | about 7 months ago | (#45021101)

I'm fairly certain Monsanto is one of the big corporations that rule the US. Where is that chart I saw once about the major companies that own all the other companies. This has to be on there somewhere.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#45021305)

I doubt it. Monsanto is about 200 in the Fortune 500 list.

Good sized, but not likely to be ruling the US.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021347)

But how many of the 200+ above Monsanto have a real impact on food production worldwide? How many more or less decide the steady march towards agricultural monoculture that has been predicted by many to be the first step in a crop collapse? They may not have a net worth of an Apple or Google, but they sure as HELL have a negative impact on the entire world's population.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (3, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 7 months ago | (#45021733)

Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world, however they only have about a 20% market share.

The idea that they decide 'the steady march towards monoculture' or have a huge impact on the entire world population is preposterous tin-foil mad hattery.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (3, Insightful)

idunham (2852899) | about 7 months ago | (#45022669)

But how many of the 200+ above Monsanto have a real impact on food production worldwide? How many more or less decide the steady march towards agricultural monoculture that has been predicted by many to be the first step in a crop collapse?

Let's see who's involved in ag-related industries and above Monsanto:
Food processors:
Archer-Daniels-Midland, ConAgra, Tyson Foods, Smithfield, and a few more. I'm excluding bottling companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
Manufacurers producing ag equipment among other products:
Ford, Caterpillar, Deere & Co.
Chemical/drug companies with major ag lines and a larger total size:
Dow (ag chemicals, seeds), Merck (veterinary), DuPont (ag chemicals, seeds)

Monsanto is in the same vicinity as Waste Management and DISH Network. I named ten companies that are larger.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#45021407)

Ya but all they have to do is ALL YOUR CORN ARE BELONG TO US and then there is no Taco Bell. No Taco Bell means junkies and hipsters will have no-where left to eat, forcing them into the job market so they can afford meals that cost for that 99 cents. The influx of young workers will drive down demand for older more experienced workers causing a deluge of early retirement, social security and medicare claims. That coupled with the recent lack of agreement on government funding will send the country into a death spiral and as The heath and affordable care act continues to be funded the complete inability of anyone to sign up for it means that these elderly will be without insurance as well, forcing them to seek out cheap carb rich diets that no longer exist because of the Monsanto embargo and they'll starve to death in the streets. It's all very simple.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 7 months ago | (#45022733)

That's unlikely. So much so that I suspect sarcasm.

Corn is grown by individual farmers, who purchase seed from several large seed companies and smaller companies that sometimes license traits.
So, big picture:
1) Picture the difficulty in manipulationg over a thousand grain elevators, or in suing half a million farmers at the same time...
I doubt that many companies could pull that off.
2) Patent exhaustion incontestably applies to the first crop when a company sells its own seed.
3) Monsanto's far from a monopoly; even if they managed to shut down all the corn that was grown from saved seeds and from their seeds, that would probably be less than half what has been planted.
4) It's not like them. They have been hard at work improving public image, though not everyone is convinced.
(I say this as someone who interned at Pioneer.)
5) Two words: corporate suicide.
It's not like Pioneer (DuPont), BASF, Bayer, and Dow are irrelevant in corn or soybean production. And two of those are larger companies than Monsanto.
Meanwhile, Monsanto specializes in seeds and chemicals.
I don't see any way that scenario could happen without their seed marketshare going to 0.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (1)

jbengt (874751) | about 7 months ago | (#45023941)

2) Patent exhaustion incontestably applies to the first crop when a company sells its own seed.

I believe that has been contested in court already, successfully.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 6 months ago | (#45030555)

If you're speaking of Bowman v. Monsanto, that is incorrect.
Bowman was about a second crop.
In case of a legitimate sale, the purchaser has the right to use the product sold for the purpose indicated: growing a crop for market sale. Any licenses from the seller which may be necessary to use it for the purpose indicated must be included with the sale.
Bowman had the right to plant the seeds he bought. That was not what he got sued over.

Bowman also had a second generation; what he planted the second time were seeds that, per the license, he had the right to sell--but not to plant.

Monsanto does sell licenses to grow seed for planting, but that comes with a royalty. If you use traits from Monsanto, you end up paying Monsanto for each generation you plant. It works the same way for seed companies.

(Note: I'm not arguing that the current laws are ideal. But they aren't nearly as bad as some people make them out to be.)

Re:Monsanto rules the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021463)

Historically whenever Monsanto does something that kills people, damages the environment etc, the government plants the blame on other companies and/or denies there even is a problem as long as they can. Of course the creation of some of that was done in collusion with the US Government, Agent Orange and similar for example. Monsanto is a company that should have been wiped from the face of the earth for their crimes many times over, even long before they started in the GMO business. Citations easy enough to find all over the web.

Re:Monsanto rules the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021309)

Could be... but the smallest of the top 20 (easiest list I could find) of the largest US companies (by market cap) is 2.5x larger than Monsanto (Citicorp).

AAPL is 9 times bigger, but I am sure you are right MON is much more influential. But just wait, given time maybe AAPL can do for education [latimes.com] what Monsanto has done for Agriculture...

Re:Monsanto rules the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021741)

http://techrights.org/2013/02/25/monsanto-and-microsoft/

Good for Climate Corp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021171)

Who said you couldn't make money doing meteorology?

fast forward a few years and I predict... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021281)

...that Monsanto is found to be skewing the forecasts for the benefit of their other products (only based on the fact that their track record shows that they really do have everyone's best interests at heart).

Monsanto will soon be suing over weather (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021391)

Knowing Monsanto, they will predict the weather for an area, but if that predicted weather then accidentally moves onto your property, Monsanto will sue you for using the weather they predicted.

Here Come The Conspiracy Theories! (3, Funny)

Hartree (191324) | about 7 months ago | (#45021433)

Two great sources of them. Now in one easy package!

"Monsanto must be buying Climate Corp. to help the global warming denialists to let them keep destroying the earth!"

Re:Here Come The Conspiracy Theories! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45022121)

Oh look, another "let's call everyone who disagrees a conspiracy theorists" post.

Considering how theories barely keep up with reality lately, it takes a lot of ignorance - or vested interests - to keep touting that line.

Re:Here Come The Conspiracy Theories! (0, Troll)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 7 months ago | (#45022355)

Oh look, another "let's call everyone who disagrees a conspiracy theorists" post.

Considering how theories barely keep up with reality lately, it takes a lot of ignorance - or vested interests - to keep touting that line.

It takes a lot of ignorance to think that a theory is the same thing as a hypothesis. The existence of gravity is just a theory afterall, yet for some reason I'm not floating off into space...a climate change denialist has about as much credibility as a gravity denialist to people who actually understand what science is.

Re:Here Come The Conspiracy Theories! (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 7 months ago | (#45022877)

Whoosh! "Hook, line, sinker"

(Here's a clue: The AC was playing along by taking the part of a conspiracy theorist spouting the line that even an obvious joke is just one of the conspirators being a shill.)

"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 7 months ago | (#45022851)

"it takes a lot of ignorance - or vested interests - to keep touting that line."

*tip-of-the hat*

I wish I could give you mod points for that one. Kudos.

Monsanto (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021479)

All genetically modified grain reverts back to a more natural state.

seriously
grow up

makes no sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021505)

nobody can accurately predict the weather in any major US city yet supposedly this can? skeptical.

did Monsanto safeguard their $1 billion investment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021705)

by taking insurance against rogue butterflies flapping their wings in China?

Re:did Monsanto safeguard their $1 billion investm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45023437)

They are working on genetically modified butterflies for weather control.

Makes sense (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#45021761)

This would seem to dovetail with the development of precision agriculture [wikipedia.org].

Stock Market Prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45021903)

If the software/algorithms used in weather prediction were actually used to predict the value of the close of the SP500 tomorrow, then that would have far greater value to Monsanto than trying to use it to sell more seeds.

Perfect (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 7 months ago | (#45021967)

Good to see all these big corporations known for their ethics and concern for the public getting involved in Big Data.

What could possibly go wrong?

Agriculture giant ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45022161)

Since when is a CHEMICAL COMPANY considered an agriculture giant?? Just because they produce some bio-chemically engineered seed are we now supposed to call them an "agriculture giant" ??

Climate/Weather (1)

_Ludwig (86077) | about 7 months ago | (#45022529)

Unfortunately the name of this company perpetuates the confusion between "climate" and "weather" so beloved by denialists and hack comedians. ("Hey, if there's all this global warming, how come on the way over here I could feel my nipples but not my fingers? I mean, it's cold out! How cold is it? So cold that lawyers are putting their hands in their own pockets!" etc.)

Futurama quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45022595)

So you don't like the weather forecast?
"Address all complaints to the Monsanto Corporation"

$930 Loonies? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#45023863)

Agriculture giant Monsanto has purchased the weather analytics firm Climate Corporation for over $930 Millionl.

930 Million L? What's 930 million loonies in real money? Something like the Norwegian Krone I guess. What's $930Ml in Krone?

Big data in farming (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45024501)

Monsanto is developing its own big data system, called IFS, to provide farmers more customized seed suggestions for their farms. It uses a geographical and soil survey of the farm to suggest many very small decisions in planting that should raise yields: Maybe this type of corn grows better in a part of the soil, or the same one will work better when planted using different seed densities in different locations. The big difficulty comes from implementing said decisions: regular combine is not designed to switch seed types and seed densities on the fly, so following the recommendation with old equipment would slow down planting to a crawl. Thus, it only makes any sense for big operations that can buy the latest and greatest equipment.

Buying a weather analysis algorithm might hand them better predictions, which should make the improvements in yield for using IFS. That would allow them to both increase the price for the recommendations, and to make them worthwhile to somewhat smaller farms. The weather algorithm itself will probably also gain from access to very detailed rainfall and temperature data collected to support IFS.

Nonetheless, this is an acquisition, and anyone that has been around long enough knows that most acquisitions end up destroying value, not creating any.

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