Policy Documents

Big Farms Are About to Get Bigger

Blake Hurst –
December 11, 2013

In this post that appeared in The American, Blake Hurst writes that nothing is more important in agriculture than place. But that may soon change. For several years, farmers have had the ability to map yields with global positioning data. Using that information, firms can design “prescriptions” for the farmer. This use of an individual farmer’s data to design a different program for each square meter in a field spanning hundreds of acres could replace a farmer’s decades of experience with satellites and algorithms. If a farmer can manage one machine guiding itself across a field by satellite, applying inputs and measuring outputs, reporting by-the-minute data on yields, oil temperature, and a gazillion other data points, what is to stop that same farmer from managing dozens of machines on farms the size of New Hampshire? Farming will be more efficient, more environmentally responsible, and easier to regulate and measure. But it won’t be the same.