Google Joins the Crop Projection Business: I’m Kidding I Think

Google Crop 500So did you hear the news, Google is getting in the crop prediction business!  I’m just kidding.  However that notion passed through my mind recently as I decided to use Google Earth in my presentation to some Ontario Realtors in London Ontario last Thursday.  I was giving a presentation in a very modern, digitally savvy building which gave me the opportunity to go live on the Internet, using video and other commentary which I would never be able to use without it.  I was able to show farms near London Ontario and then swing through Grand Prairie Alberta all using Google Earth.

The technology is what it is, it’s mind blowing, and about as mind blowing as the first time I set my hands on a Macintosh keyboard way back in 1986.  So it is what it is and if you haven’t tried it you need to.  However it gets me back to the question if Google has such technology cannot they overlap and interlay that data over a defined period and come up with crop projections which might have some semblance of credibility?

The question is, “has it ever been thought up “?   I dunno.  Of course I bring it up because despite the gnashing of teeth over the last few weeks over the January 12 USDA report some folks are still having a very hard time digesting it all.  I was just asked tonight to speak at the Western Fair farm show in London Ontario on March 11th regarding the markets.  I’m thinking how delicious this will be based on the USDA re-surveying all those states and adding the numbers up for March 10th.  If they come up with 13.250 billion bushels of corn, I think there might be a riot in the room.

Of course I don’t know what will happen but I think Google getting into the business would certainly shake things up.  If you look at Google Earth technology and put crop rotation into the algorithm and a bit of past history couldn’t I make predictions on US corn acres?  With Google not only documenting the earth, sky and sea you would think that documenting corn and soybeans and wheat conditions would be a piece of cake.

If you “Google “the words “Google crop projections” you get some interesting search results.  For instance there is an article written by the AP Farm writer at the time Don Kendall.  In the article dated April 27, 1976 he says a mild dispute has developed behind the scenes at the Agriculture Department over new projections showing that farmers could raise huge grain crops this year, boosting US reserves to their highest level since 1972.  The title of the article is “crop projections disputed “.  Incredibly, they were predicting a US corn crop of 6.4 billion bushels when the crop the year before had been 5.8 billion.  1976 in many ways when you look at that seems 300 years away.

So it looks like Google doesn’t do crop projections at least for now.  However, in the United States and in parts of Canada you can go to “Google Street view “.  I use this quite a bit.  What you can do with this is see exactly what things look like almost anywhere in the United States from the street in front of it.  For instance I check out where farmers live in the United States when they write me notes.  I can go based on the return address right in front of their farmstead and see what their farm looks like.  I’ve never been to DTN headquarters in Omaha, but I know what it looks like because I’ve seen it on Google Street view.  I can even tell what the crops look like in Illinois, because I can see them on Google Street view.  So it’s not too much of a stretch to get Google to measure crop size, quality and progress.

Whether you believe me or not is up to you.  What I am saying is with the technology that we have today even on our desktop computers, there is the increasing ability to measure crop size and quality.  If this can be enhanced through other means such as scouting or even aerial drones, there is the possibility to make it work.  Think about how we measure crop size here in Ontario?  Call it what you will, but at the end of the day when I write about crop size in Ontario it is a summary of educated guesses based on history.  In my mind Canadian producers deserve a little bit better than that.

It is not to say that my “educated guesses “are all that bad.  I try real hard.  The challenge for better crop predictions and market intelligence lies in new technology.  However, it’s not all about that.  The other part is the willingness of commodity groups and others especially in Canada to reach out and try some of these technologies, which may foster new avenues to measure crop size and quality.  I think Google needs to be nudged on this.  In Canada, there are certainly a lot of others too.