Monsanto Unit to Build Sensors Giving Farmers Better Field Data

  • ‘Network will collect an unprecedented amount of field data’
  • Company says net sales to peak at $25 billion on new products

Climate Corp., the technology unit of seed giant Monsanto Co., plans to create what it says will be the first network of in-field sensors to relay data on crop conditions back to farmers.

Climate Corp. also said it will allow third parties to build upon and provide additional layers of data for its Climate FieldView software platform, which offers crop information to farmers. Its first partner in developing the platform is Veris Technologies Inc., Climate Corp., said Wednesday in a statement.

The San Francisco-based Monsanto subsidiary is one of the biggest players in an emerging industry known as precision agriculture, which aims to harness weather and crop data along with cloud computing to offer improved yield. Climate Corp.’s software is offered on mobile devices, allowing farmers to assess crop conditions in real time.

“Our sensor network will collect an unprecedented amount of field data, at a more frequent and granular level, to drive insights that can help farmers unlock untapped yield potential,” Climate Corp. Chief Scientist Sam Eathington said in the statement.

Difficult Talks

Monsanto unveiled the deal ahead of a series of investor presentations, and said in a separate statement Wednesday that it expects $25 billion in net sales from new products. The company said it was on track to meet the low end of its full-year earnings forecast of $3.36 to $4.14 a share.

Bayer AG, the German chemicals producer, has been in talks with Monsanto about buying the company following two rejected bids. Reuters reported earlier that talks have been “difficult.” On Tuesday, Handelsblatt reported that Bayer is considering a hostile bid.

“Discussions are now ongoing with them and others,” Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said of Bayer Wednesday during the presentation. “Our board continues to assess whether a transaction in the best interest of our shareowners can be realized.”

While Monsanto expects growth next year amid market momentum, particularly for its soybean products, the outlook for pricing remains flat, Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann told investors in the presentation.

St. Louis-based Monsanto, the world’s largest seed supplier and a pioneer of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, acquired Climate Corp. in 2013 for $930 million. The Californian company was started in 2006 by two Google engineers who wanted to use historical weather date to provide more accurate, localized forecasts. Early on, Climate Corp. offered its forecasts to farmers along with crop insurance. Monsanto subsequently sold the insurance business to focus on the software.

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