TIME Innovation

How Data Can Help Farmers Protect the Earth

Grant is CEO of Monsanto

"Every square meter of a field contains hundreds of pieces of data, from moisture and nutrient levels to real-time weather variables"

How has your life changed since the dawn of the smartphone? We now have unlimited data in our hands: updates on our kids’ grades, real-time stock prices, shipping information for online purchases, even a fitness tracker in the cloud counting our steps. Instead of reading the same newspaper as our neighbors each morning, we each choose the information that comes straight to us based on how our day is shaping up. The opportunities for customization seem endless.

All of this data is designed to help us do one thing: make specific decisions, tailored to our needs, about the things that improve our lives.

Now imagine how the same data technology can improve decisions farmers make every day. Every square meter of a field contains hundreds of pieces of data, from moisture and nutrient levels to real-time weather variables. Like you and your neighbors, each plant’s day is a little different, and so are its needs.

Why should we care about each little change in the life of an individual plant or the soil on the world’s fields? Because each piece of data farmers collect helps them make more precise decisions about resources like seeds, water, soil nutrients and plant health. That precision cuts down on waste and helps grow food more sustainably, with more efficient use of land, water, fertilizer, fossil fuels and other resources. When combined with other important practices, like reducing the carbon released by tilling, precision agriculture can help reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint. Now agriculture can be a piece of the solution to climate change.

Farmers play a critical role as true stewards of the land. Monsanto is in the agriculture business, and our customers are greatly affected by shifts in the climate and availability of natural resources. So it’s good business to be proactive, both in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and in developing more precise options that offer farmers ways to use their resources efficiently and sustainably. Farmers, like other business owners, choose their spending wisely, and every planting season we work to earn our customers’ business. New, innovative solutions mean that we can continue to advance more informed decisions about farming, better economic return for growers and a reduced impact on the environment.

There’s never been a more important time for innovation that can support sustainable farming. The population is growing. The world is getting hotter. Water is scarcer. And we have a responsibility to try to put balanced meals on more tables while reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.

It’s a daunting and exciting challenge, one that will require collaboration from all types of farmers and consumers. But one thing is certain: Innovation and data science in agriculture will help slow climate change, promote efficient use of precious resources and help farmers feed the world more sustainably for generations to come.

Read more articles from the TIME/Fortune Global Forum at the Vatican on the role of business in solving the world’s greatest problems.

Tap to read full story

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


YOU BROKE TIME.COM!

Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team