DuPont, with Deere & Co, to roll out precision farming program

Reuters

By Carey Gillam

Nov 8 (Reuters) - DuPont Pioneer, the agricultural seed unitof DuPont, said Friday that it has aligned with farmmachinery company Deere & Co in a race against rivalMonsanto Co to provide farmers with enhanced "precisionagriculture" analyses aimed at maximizing crop production.

The programs these companies will roll out next year willgive farmers guidance on a number of field management decisions,including planting, crop treatment, pest control and even thebest time to harvest.

Officials with DuPont Pioneer said customers using its newprecision agronomy software will be able to move data wirelesslythrough a fledgling wireless transfer system offered by Deere,speeding response times for data-driven recommendations Pioneeris rolling out in new "Field360" products next year.

Farmers can receive field-specific information that can helpthem with an array of decisions related to planting, fieldmanagement and harvesting to try to maximize crop yields,according to DuPont Pioneer Director of Services Joe Foresman.

In the past, Pioneer has focused on counseling farmers onthe best seed to plant for their particular farms. But the dealwith Deere is the latest in a series of moves by both Pioneerand rival Monsanto Co. to turn farm-related dataanalyses into new profit streams by incorporating analytics onan array of data points, including soil types, fungicideapplication timing, weather patterns, and pest management.

The precision agriculture approach uses computer technologyand the global positioning system to ensure that seeds,fertilizer and chemicals are applied correctly.

The move by DuPont Pioneer to align with Deere comes afterMonsanto on Nov. 1 completed its acquisition of The ClimateCorp, spending nearly $1 billion to buy the weather data andmodeling technology company. That followed Monsanto's purchasein 2012 of Precision Planting Inc.

Though it will not initially incorporate the climate data,Monsanto plans to launch its "FieldScripts," analytics programin Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota in 2014 priced at about$10 per acre.

Both companies say the future of farming and increased foodproduction will be closely tied to sophisticated analyses ofdata to let farmers know what types of seed work best in certainfields; where in a field they might want to plant more seed, orless; where they might have better moisture; or more need forchemical treatments; and what type of weather events they mightexpect.

How much in revenue these data-driven product lines mighttranslate to for the seed companies is still unknown.

"As we build and demonstrate value for the farmer it createsthat opportunity for us to have value recognized," saidForesman. "It's really a good foundation to build from."

Edward Jones analyst Matt Arnold, who tracks the sector,said the value proposition is still murky.

"We think it is too early to tell how meaningful the revenueopportunity is in this business, or who is poised to prevail asthe market leader," Arnold said.

DuPont Pioneer has "mapped" about 20 million acres from 2012to 2013, filling a database that can churn out "yield maps" forcustomers, and provide about 1.5 million acres of variableseeding prescriptions.

The alliance with Deere, which is not exclusive, will speedup the turnaround of such yield maps by months, by allowingtransfer of data between farmers and DuPont Pioneer analystswirelessly, said Foresman.

The company will be working to forge similar arrangementswith other equipment manufacturers, he said.

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