Fixing Ag’s Big Data Problem

Fixing Ag’s Big Data Problem

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Big data is a big problem in agriculture, and entrepreneur and ag-expert Lance Donny believes he can fix it.

Lance Donny, CEO of OnFarm Systems, grew up on a family farm in Fresno, CA. After twenty years of experience in software and finance, he returned to his roots in agriculture and founded OnFarm Systems.

“Consider it your one stop source of mission-critical information about your clients operations,” Donny said. “Their equipment, field conditions, people, and more.”

By integrating hardware systems and the data they pick up into its platform, OnFarm software compiles analyitical information into a format that allows farmers to easily read and make decisions. “[Farmer’s] are tired of juggling different systems,” Donny said. “You’re in a truck trying to figure out if you’re going to irrigate tomorrow or the next day…. We use data and information, and we process that for the grower.”

Donny says that he saw the big data problem in ag first-hand. Donny worked from 2009 to early 2012 as the CFO and Vice President at PureSense, a company focused on monitoring irrigation systems and water management. With over 2000 sites providing readings and data every 15 minutes, PureSense and their customers were inundated with data. Donny said his customers reached a threshold of how much hardware they wanted to install on their properties simply because they were overwhelmed in data.

The big question was, as Donny said, “How do we make a system that really concentrates the data down into a data point that allows a farmer to look at that data point, and make a decision?”

OnFarm Systems has gained a lot of traction and attention since it started just a year and a half ago. In September, they were awarded IBM’s North America SmartCamp event, an award given to an innovative start-up that integrates big data, analytics, cloud data, and mobile and social technologies. OnFarm was also a 2013 finalist for the IBM Global Entrepreneur of the year. Just this week, Lance Donny was a speaker at the Mobilize 2013 Conference in San Francisco, presenting OnFarm Systems.

“Companies in ag tend to focus on hardware,” Donny said. “They look at information and software as secondary…. They’re not necessarily designed to look at the broader scope of decision making.”

Donny’s vision for improved agricultural decision-making and data use spans the entire globe. Donny sees huge potential in ag space to build the around the internet of things, and using OnFarm technology in the United States is just the beginning.

“If you look at Africa and Asia, there’s huge potential in ag in those countries,” he said. Citing that many of the ag areas in Africa and Asia are based upon small-farm operations, Donny sees a huge benefit to using OnFarm integration technology to better inform individual farmers. “How do you enable a grower in Africa or Asia to be able to grow efficiently like a grower in California could?”

Donny believes that OnFarm is the answer.

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