Bayer Signs Deal with San Diego’s SlantRange to Analyze Farm Data

SlantRange, a San Diego startup that specializes in providing agricultural data and analytics for farmers, has landed its first strategic agreement with a major agribusiness company. In a statement today, SlantRange says it is now working to collect and analyze crop data for Bayer Crop Science, a division of Bayer’s North American operations based in Research Triangle Park, NC.

“They are paying us; unfortunately, I can’t say the value,” SlantRange spokesman Matt Barre said by phone.

In developing its business model, SlantRange has steered clear of manufacturing drones or offering commercial drone services. Instead, the company sells a specialized airborne sensor for imaging farmland, and it provides specialized analytics for the data generated by the sensor when it is mounted on a drone used to fly over farmland.

As SlantRange CEO Mike Ritter explained last year, the company has developed a new technique for data compression that allows much of the data-crunching analytics to occur in a sensor module and in the tablet computer used to control a drone. (The module uses a Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) Snapdragon processor, Barre said.)

The deal with Bayer represents a significant business opportunity for SlantRange, Barre explained. The company’s initial customers were mostly agronomists hired by farms to analyze and improving the productivity of their fields.

Under this program, SlantRange will provide its airborne sensor technology and analytics for three major crops for Bayer’s crop efficiency research program throughout North America during the 2017 growin-g season. While the deal with Bayer is only a one-year agreement, Barre said SlantRage hopes to extend and expand its agribusiness work. Bayer Crop Science has nearly 2,600 employees at facilities throughout the United States.

“It’s the analytics and the data that they’re interested in,” Barre said. Given the scale of Bayer’s agribusiness in the United States, “they’re not going to be interested in a solution that doesn’t scale,” he added.

Many crop science companies now have research partnerships with drone makers. For example, Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer has a collaboration in place with PrecisionHawk, a Raleigh, NC, company that makes both drones and drone software. SlantRange said its data would include “basic crop metrics” such as stress conditions and biomass as well as more advanced results derived from multispectral signature processing and machine vision techniques.

“The results will be used to evaluate how high-­resolution drone-­based imagery and advanced data analytics can be used in conjunction with other geo-­referenced data sources, such as soil characterization, weather time series, and satellite data, to gain new agronomic insights and provide more customized and sustainable agronomic recommendations for improving yields,” the company said.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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