Collaborative effort aims to make farming safer, more efficient and environmentally sound
Through a multi-year collaborative effort, Microsoft and Land O’Lakes will bring cloud, Internet of Things, Big Data analytics, and broadband connectivity to the agriculture sector with the aim of making farming more productive, efficient, and environmentally friendly.
The Lowdown: The partnership between Microsoft and the Minnesota-based farming and dairy collaborative will initially focus on creating connected Agriculture Technology (AgTech) platforms on which existing management tools can operate more efficiently. Over time, the two companies will develop and distribute new solutions that will provide farmers with greater control over their crop planning, supply-chain management, produce distribution, dairy management, and other administrative functions.
The Details: The Microsoft-Land O’Lakes partnership seeks to consolidate and harness the power of multiple data sources through technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT sensors, and edge computing. Through the intelligence gleaned from day-to-day farming operations — augmented with outside data sources such as weather reports and market demand — the solutions based in the Microsoft Azure cloud will make farmers less wasteful, more profitable, and less impactful on the environment.
The Impact: The initiative has ambitious goals for the program that will initially bring cloud-based and IoT technology to nearly 2,000 direct producers and 751 member cooperatives in the Land O’Lakes system. If successful, the program will open new technologies and broadband connections to farmers in rural areas, help make dairy and crop production more efficient through the use of less land and supply-chain tracking, and reduce carbon emissions through new crop-management techniques.
Background: Land O’Lakes is one of the largest farmer-owned cooperatives in the United States, with more than 150 million acres of cropland in its network. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farming contributes more than $130 billion annually to the economy.
“Land O’Lakes is one of the most important food suppliers in the U.S., and our nation’s farmers and consumers rely on its ability to rapidly adapt to changing market forces through innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “Through our partnership, we will apply the power of Azure and its AI capabilities to help Land O’Lakes solve some of the most pressing challenges facing the industry and bridge the divide between rural and urban communities.”
“As America’s farmers continue to deliver the world’s safest, most affordable food supply, they face an increasing number of obstacles that are beyond their control,” said Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes. “The data-based, precision agriculture tools that we are building with Microsoft will provide the edge they need, but unreliable or nonexistent high-speed Internet in rural areas keeps these tools out of reach for many. Through this alliance, we will work to address this need and help farmers remain profitable and sustainable.”