The High-Tech Farm Report: Cloud Computing Comes to Agriculture

By Nicole Hemsoth

February 21, 2011

When it comes to agriculture and farming, success is always dependent on cycles of one kind or another. Seasons change, precipitation varies, climate patterns shift… In short, there are times of plenty and there times of great demand, thus farmers need to automatically scale their resources and provision according to immediate needs and their own spending, yield and other policies. Does that model sound familiar – like perhaps the case for cloud computing?

While the shifting, cyclical demand creates plenty of uncertainty for farmers, the sporadic, constantly-changing nature of needs versus spare capacity creates an ideal environment for cloud computing models to thrive.

Cloud computing is catching on for large providers of agricultural services and as a tool to help agricultural researchers in the field and in the lab. This year there should be a wealth of new use cases that highlight the way a number of technologies come together – everything from application development for mobile devices operating in the cloud to new sensors that send data to remote resources – all of which are either enabled or enhanced by cloud.

Agricultural cloud computing use cases are wide-ranging; from the refinement of planting and harvesting operations to research based on the integration of global positioning data and in-field studies. What is interesting about this field is that cloud computing in agriculture is benefiting from the integration of a number of improvements in mobile, sensor, GIS, GPS and other technological developments in tandem. Use cases for agricultural production and research projects go far beyond simple remote hosting.

Of the synthesis in new technologies enabled by the cloud, Emily Padfield states, “Radio-frequency identification tags (RFIDs), which can hold and automatically download a mass of data, are becoming part of agriculture. Bale tagging systems that hold data on the bale’s moisture content, weight and GPS position of where they came from in the field already exist, but in the future, micro-tags of the size of soil particles will be deployed extensively in fields measuring such things as moisture, disease burden and even whether the crop is ready to harvest or not.”

Padfield continues about the merger of cloud computing with a number of newer technologies, noting: “Mountains of GPS-sourced 3D data is now being gathered on farms, but instead of experts analyzing the data, the job is being done by automated computer systems that allows farmers to benefit from new techniques almost immediately…And all of that information coming from farm mapping, machines working in the field and remote sensors will be transferred to remote servers for access anywhere.

Mobile phones and tablets are leveraging cloud computing live from the field (as in the case of the USDA’s new Object Modeling System for agricultural research, for example) and large internal IT systems are being virtualized to improve efficiency given that needs literally change with the season, as do requirements for compute capacity.

Some large farm-focused companies have already looked to streamline their operations using cloud computing. Monsanto, a global provider of agricultural products is among the first large-scale agriculture company to jump on board with cloud computing solutions. During planting season, Monsanto sees massive increases in need for IT services, which makes them an ideal candidate for scalable systems that change with demand. In October, Monsanto selected BMC Software and the Cisco Unified Computing System to create their IT environment that would scale automatically and help Monsanto reach its stated goal of 70 percent server virtualization.

In April of last year, Fujitsu announced that it would be rolling out a series of cloud computing services for Japan’s agriculture industry. This was deemed a good fit for the country because “agricultural producers and corporations throughout Japan are scattered and given the relatively limited size of their operations, most lack ICT skills and dedicated professionals.” The Fujitsu agriculture services were delivered out of one of Fujitsu’s Japanese datacenters and delivered services ranging from farm management and accounting tasks to agricultural product safety.

Supporting agriculture at the national level like Fujitsu did in Japan, especially with a population that lacks access to sophisticated computational power and tools, is one way that we might see cloud computing in agriculture explode over the coming years. It is a perfect fit – demand fluxuates, software-as-a-service provides tools needed without installation on machines that would require capital investment, and most farmers are not IT experts and need abstraction from the technical layers.

Big agricultural companies and focused research efforts to aid in collaboration and better farming techniques are seeing some benefit in a shift from on-site systems to remotely hosted platforms. While a great deal outside of research is not necessarily in the HPC realm, it is interesting to watch how a “traditional” enterprise is making use of new paradigms in IT.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Glimpses of Today’s Total Solar Eclipse

August 21, 2017

Here are a few arresting images posted by NASA of today’s total solar eclipse. Such astronomical events have always captured our imagination and it’s not hard to understand why such occurrences were often greeted wit Read more…

By John Russell

Tech Giants Outline Battle Plans for Future HPC Market

August 21, 2017

Four companies engaged in a cage fight for leadership in the emerging HPC market of the 2020s are, despite deep differences in some areas, in violent agreement on at least one thing: the power consumption and latency pen Read more…

By Doug Black

Geospatial Data Research Leverages GPUs

August 17, 2017

MapD Technologies, the GPU-accelerated database specialist, said it is working with university researchers on leveraging graphics processors to advance geospatial analytics. The San Francisco-based company is collabor Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Leveraging Deep Learning for Fraud Detection

Advancements in computing technologies and the expanding use of e-commerce platforms have dramatically increased the risk of fraud for financial services companies and their customers. Read more…

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Centers (IPCCs) has resulted in a new Big Data Center (BDC) that Read more…

By Linda Barney

Tech Giants Outline Battle Plans for Future HPC Market

August 21, 2017

Four companies engaged in a cage fight for leadership in the emerging HPC market of the 2020s are, despite deep differences in some areas, in violent agreement Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft Bolsters Azure With Cloud HPC Deal

August 15, 2017

Microsoft has acquired cloud computing software vendor Cycle Computing in a move designed to bring orchestration tools along with high-end computing access capabilities to the cloud. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Ships Supercomputer to Space Station, Final Destination Mars

August 14, 2017

With a manned mission to Mars on the horizon, the demand for space-based supercomputing is at hand. Today HPE and NASA sent the first off-the-shelf HPC system i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD EPYC Video Takes Aim at Intel’s Broadwell

August 14, 2017

Let the benchmarking begin. Last week, AMD posted a YouTube video in which one of its EPYC-based systems outperformed a ‘comparable’ Intel Broadwell-based s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Thrives in Cancer Moonshot

August 8, 2017

The U.S. War on Cancer, certainly a worthy cause, is a collection of programs stretching back more than 40 years and abiding under many banners. The latest is t Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Raises the Bar for Distributed Deep Learning

August 8, 2017

IBM is announcing today an enhancement to its PowerAI software platform aimed at facilitating the practical scaling of AI models on today’s fastest GPUs. Scal Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Storage Breakthrough Paves Way for 330TB Tape Cartridges

August 3, 2017

IBM announced yesterday a new record for magnetic tape storage that it says will keep tape storage density on a Moore's law-like path far into the next decade. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Stuffs a Petaflops of Machine Intelligence into 20-Node Rack

August 1, 2017

With its Radeon “Vega” Instinct datacenter GPUs and EPYC “Naples” server chips entering the market this summer, AMD has positioned itself for a two-head Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This