Say there's a company that's employing a team of experts to harness weather data, allowing you to plug in your fields and crops and planting conditions. The company isn't trying to sell you insurance, seed or equipment. You pay a subscription and your farm data doesn't get sold down the line.
Would you bite?
Agrible is betting you will.
The Champaign, Ill.,-based company was founded about 18 months ago by three Midwestern Ph.Ds. Chris Harbourt, Paul Miller and Bill Northcott were all in grad school together during the late '90s. Looking at weather and data models of the time, they could see the potential but knew the platforms to deliver farm data didn't exist.
By 2008, the platforms caught up and the three reconvened to build a company that worked with major Ag and seed companies – largely helping them manage weather conditions with their seed production farms.
Last month they launched the direct-to-farmer version of the company that they first envisioned 15 years ago: Agrible.com.
"We're trying to make the premier predictive analytics company in agriculture," says CEO Chris Harbourt. "That's the important distinction – we're not just tracking. A lot of companies are doing that. We're trying to take that information and use it historically over 10-12 years. We want to help make actionable decisions through the course of a season."
In doing so, Harbourt and his cohorts have pulled together a team of agronomists, Ag engineers and atmospheric scientists. "They're crazy about putting together predictions," Harbourt says.
A further distinction according to Harbourt: "We're trying to do it for Ag purposes. They're doing it for insurance purposes."
He points out that with climate change, weather will become more variable. Agrible uses government weather data, applied to individual fields, to predict rainfall and yield weeks in advance.
"We're taking those wonderful sources of data and all the taxpayer dollars that go into quality assurance, and we're using our background in Ag to make it useful for farmers," Harbourt adds. "We're looking at weather's impact on soil, and delivering that information to growers."
Agrible's initial launch focuses on corn and soybeans, but they'll target cotton, wheat and potatoes before each of those crops are planted this year. Ultimately, they'll market to 11 different crops.
Agrible offers a variety of tools and packages, for a variety of prices. Yield Engine is their flagship tool, designed to give farmers information they can use to market grain – and information their neighbors may not have. Field Intel lets the farmer know what's happening in a given field, while Tractor Time relies on weather and soil compaction data to help farmers estimate when they can work in a given field.
Subscribers also receive Agrible's daily Morning Farm Report. Morning Farm Report will feature daily information about global weather trends and how your crop can benefit, and a weekly informational video from atmospheric scientists. "We want you to think about what's going on in your field relative to the globe," Harbourt explains.
On the top end, growers will pay $1,500 for the entire suite of products, including the Yield Engine tool. On the lower end, they'll be charged $300 to $400 for basic Field Intel. Plus, it's a subscription service with a flat annual fee – not a per-acre fee.
"Our business model doesn't rely on us selling data - that's why it's subscription based," Harbourt says. "Our hope is that the grower sees value in it and it's not free, because we're not selling the data.
Related: Farm data: Risk and reward
"We're very conscious and private about what we're doing."
As part of their launch, Agrible is offering up the free app, Pocket Raingauge, available on iTunes. Drive to your field, launch the app and know instantly whether the rain gauge was right or not.
– Spangler is special projects editor for Penton Farm Progress