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Farmobile DataStore Open for Business

Since launching its data collection device – the passive uplink connection or PUC – in 2014, Farmobile has been committed to helping farmers monetize their farm data by connecting them to buyers. With the opening of the Farmobile DataStore today, the Kansas-based company is building on that promise by creating the first and largest private digital exchange for farmers’ machines and agronomic data.

The DataStore contains detailed agronomic data for planting, harvesting, foraging, spraying, and spreading; field data (boundaries, variety, crop type); and location data. It has more than 1 million acres of electronic field records (EFRs), which has a standardized geo-tagged format, in its bank.

Opting In

Using the PUC, farmers collect raw agronomic and machine data across their operation. Once planting and harvest season is complete, farmers can opt to certify their data and make it available for licensing in the exchange. The data then becomes a new, recurring source of revenue with the option to license data multiple times.

Approved data buyers can query and make an offer for farm data based on their specific needs. They can also choose to enhance standard EFRs with data on soil types and tests, pesticide, fertilizer variety, and weather data through the Farmobile DataFeed.

“We started Farmobile based on the belief that data is one of the most valuable things a farmer harvests. It’s the infinite commodity. That will never change. This milestone proves that the market believes it, too,” says Jason Tatge, CEO of Farmobile. “We have data buyers calling us like crazy. From reinsurance companies to technology giants to chemical and seed companies, buyers are hungry for a consistent stream of high-quality, layered, ground-truthed farm data. We’re the only ones who can provide it.”

Leveraging The Latest Technology And Other Key Features

Tatge shares additional insight on the key features incorporated into the DataStore as well as the trends Farmobile is seeing around data.

SF: Why is Farmobile partnering with Intel and Amazon Web Services to incorporate a blockchain component into the DataStore?

JT: We’ve been advocates for transparency in ag since day one, and incorporating blockchain is one more step in advancing that mission. We also see that blockchain is going to become increasingly integrated into the supply chain, and we want to start helping the ag industry embrace it now.

We’re leveraging elements of blockchain fueled by Intel Sawtooth and Amazon Web Services to add a layer of radical transparency for both farmer and data buyer. Our private blockchain is in its infancy, but today it is able to track and guide the actual transaction process including account set-up, creation, confirmation, pricing and execution of offers, and data tracing. Our exchange is the perfect use-case for its value proposition – hyper-secure, transparent, and decentralized.

SF: Who are some of the buyers interested in a farmer’s data? How do you see that changing in time?

JT: We’ve had data buyers lining up around the block to get their hands on ground-truthed, standardized farm data. This kind of high-quality data set has never been available before, and it’s obvious there’s a hungry market for it.

I can’t talk about any specific company, but I can say that we’ve facilitated transactions with agronomists, seed and equipment dealers, co-ops, crop insurance companies, and big tech firms, among others. They’re leveraging the data to power prescription software, inform predictive risk models, and improve underwriting.

We’re moving toward a future of radical efficiency in agriculture, and I think we’re going to start seeing major tech companies getting into the game as more data comes online. They are perfectly equipped to conduct innovative R&D and build new tech-enabled products for farmers.

SF: How do farmers certify their data? What new tools are going to make that process easier? 

JT: Farmers can certify their data through Farmobile DataServices, which is a group of Farmobile-certified agronomy professionals who will help farmers open up a new revenue stream by making it easy to certify their data. With DataServices, farmers simply hand off the task of certifying their data to an approved agronomist.

The challenge of the industry has been less in getting the data or the people to buy it, but in creating a system that is properly incentivized and easy to use. We don’t think farmers have to become engineers or data scientists to extract meaningful value from their digital exhaust.

SF: What trends are you seeing in the information being purchased?

JT: Working with agronomy professionals also gives us access to hundreds of thousands of additional historical data points. I think this is the main trend you’ll see in the information being purchased – ground-truthed data coupled with historical information is a powerful tool for creating a future of agriculture that is much more precise, efficient, and productive.

SF: Do you tell farmers who or what industry (e.g., insurance, seed, etc.) is purchasing their data? If yes, why is it important that farmers know who is interested in their data?

JT: Yes, farmers are in control. They always know buyer identities and offer details, and they have the right to accept or reject all transactions.

It’s important because our mission is to help farmers own their data outright, and part of that is having control over who uses it and how it is used. It’s also interesting because, over time, farmers can start to curate the kind of data they are collecting based on what they know buyers are interested in. Just like any market, there’s a negotiation between supply and demand, and we’re giving farmers the power to make the most of that.

SF: How much data is enough to get the density you wanted to achieve for the sophisticated buyer?

JT: It depends, but typically the sophisticated buyer is looking for data that spans multiple planting or harvest seasons with multiple axis of information, such as seed type or fertilizer application.

This data serves as the foundation. Buyers can then layer in weather data, soil test data, satellite data, etc., to enhance it for their needs and add to the insight. Farmobile is also working on several third-party information providers to add these data layers to the recently purchased data upon checkout.

SF: Talk about why you need several layers of historic data?

JT: The two key values are that it is more trustworthy and it paints a more complete picture. By layering a multitude of data points, data buyers have better insight into what’s really going on in the field, and they can track trends over time. It also helps normalize for unpredictable and often one-off events, like weather.

A good comparison is wearables in health care. If you’re only gathering heart rate from the Fitbit, for example, you have an incomplete picture. If you layer in the accelerometer and time, and even geolocation, you can paint a complete picture of the patient and even identify where the data doesn’t match up and normalize it for the device errors.

SF: What’s next?

JT: Now that we’ve reached 1 million acres, we’re asking ourselves how we can turn that into 10 million acres. We believe that comes by continuously improving the system for both sides of the deal and helping the industry understand the value of data as an agricultural commodity.

Increasingly, mainstream conversations about data are shifting to focus on ownership. We’ve been having this conversation for five years, and we’re going to keep fighting for the rights farmers all deserve.

You’re going to be hearing a lot more from us over the next year. Stay tuned!


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