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Monsanto Buys Climate Corporation for $930 Million, Bringing Big Data to the Farm - Businessweek

Stashed in: Google Acquisitions, Big Data!, Climate, Agriculture, Monsanto

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Monsanto (MON) has agreed to acquire the Climate Corp. for $930 million. The real stunner of a deal marks one of the largest buys of a new-era data analytics company.

Climate Corp. was founded in 2006 under the name Weatherbill by a pair of Google(GOOG) engineers who wanted to capitalize on the world’s increasingly unpredictable climate. The new company offered insurance against weather-related incidents such as a rainout at the U.S. Open tennis tournament or a concert cancelation. As time went on, the company settled on a business model that revolved around providing a new type of insurance for farmers.


The startup turned the U.S. into a grid and used weather data to measure temperature and rainfall and other factors. If a farmer bought a policy that covered drought and his land didn’t receive the specified amount of rain covered by the policy, he was paid out automatically by Climate Corp. based on the measurements—no need to file a claim.


The takeaway here seems to be that Monsanto sees Climate Corp. as a data and analytics service arm that will aid farmers in what’s being hailed as the era of Precision Agriculture. Startups have arrived delivering cheap sensors that constantly monitor the moisture and nutrients in soil, while others have started using satellite images to measure the yields of crops. All this information needs to be pulled and analyzed by someone who knows what she’s doing.

Where do you stand on Monsanto? Brilliant or pure evil or both?

For the PCBs alone (polychlorinated biphenyl) Monsanto is PFE (Pretty Fucking Evil)

Monsanto produced PCBs for over 50 years and they are now virtually omnipresent in the blood and tissues of humans and wildlife around the globe - from the polar bears at the north pole to the penguins in Antarctica. These days PCBs are banned from production and some experts say there should be no acceptable level of PCBs allowed in the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says, "PCB has been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system." But the evidence of widespread contamination from PCBs and related chemicals has been accumulating from 1965 onwards and internal company papers show that Monsanto knew about the PCB dangers from early on.

The PCB problem was particularly severe in the town of Anniston in Alabama where discharges from the local Monsanto plant meant residents developed PCB levels hundreds or thousands of times the average. As The Washington Post reported, "for nearly 40 years, while producing the now-banned industrial coolants known as PCBs at a local factory, Monsanto Co. routinely discharged toxic waste into a west Anniston creek and dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. And thousands of pages of Monsanto documents : many emblazoned with warnings such as 'CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy' : show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew."

Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group says that based on the Monsanto documents made public, Monsanto "knew the truth from the very beginning. They lied about it. They hid the truth from their neighbors." One Monsanto memo explains their justification: "We can't afford to lose one dollar of business." Eventually Monsanto was found guilty of conduct "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society".

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