“Like the weather information, the data on soils was free for the taking. The hard and expensive part is turning the data into a product.”-Quentin Hardy, in 2011, in a blog post about “big data in the dirt.”
The Climate Corporation, acquired by Monsanto for $930 million dollars on Wednesday, was founded using 30 years of government data from the National Weather Service, 60 years of crop yield data and 14 terabytes of information on soil types for every two square miles for the United States from the Department of Agriculture, per David Friedberg, chief executive of the Climate Corporation.
Howsabout that for government “data as infrastructure” and platform for businesses?
As it happens, not everyone is thrilled to hear about that angle or the acquirer. At VentureBeat, Rebecca Grant takes the opportunity to knock “the world’s most evil corporation for the effects of Monsanto’s genetically modified crops, and, writing for Salon, Andrew Leonard takes the position that the Climate Corporation’s use of government data constitutes a huge “taxpayer ripoff.”
Most observers, however, are more bullish. Hamish MacKenzie hails the acquisition as confirmation that “software is eating the world,” signifying an inflection point in data analysis transforming industries far away from Silicon Valley. Liz Gannes also highlighted the application of data-driven analysis to an offline industry. Ashlee Vance focused on the value of Climate Corporation’s approach to scoring risk for insurance in agribusiness. Stacey Higginbotham posits that the acquisition could be a boon to startups that specialize in creating data on soil and climate through sensors.
[Image Credit: Climate Corporation, via NPR]