Google turns to farming

The most cutting edge information technology meets the most ancient survival technology, as Google invests in weather-insurance, backed by meterological computing, for farmers.

Google Inc.’s venture capital arm is backing a start-up founded by ex-Googlers that insures farms and other business against the whims of Mother Nature.

Launched four years ago, WeatherBill Inc. is announcing today $42 million in Series B funding from Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures and several previous investors.

Founded by two ex-Googlers–Chief Executive David Friedberg, who worked on Google’s corporate development team and Google AdWords, and Chief Technology Officer Siraj Khaliq, who worked on Google Booksearch and other technical projects–WeatherBill aggregates large amounts of weather data from the National Weather Service and other sources and applies statistical analyses to run large-scale simulations that assess the probability of weather occurring several years in advance anywhere on the globe, the company said.

According to Friedberg, more than 90% of crop losses are due to unexpected weather, and these losses are exacerbated by the increasing number of extreme weather events caused by climate change. Friedberg cited recent droughts in Russia and China and flooding in Australia, while one of WeatherBill’s customers–Steve Wolters, a farmer who grows corn, soybean and wheat in Celina, Ohio–cited a very dry growing season in Ohio nine years ago followed by a year in which 14 inches of rain fell in 10 days.

“The flip flop of weather from one year to the next is the biggest challenge farmers face,” Wolters said in a statement.

WeatherBill’s flagship product, called Total Weather Insurance, acts as a subsidy to government-subsidized crop insurance by enabling farmers to hedge their risk on crops. Farmers can create contracts that lock in profits based on their locations and how much damage they could incur from rain, drought, heat, cold or snow. WeatherBill pays automatically based on measured weather conditions within 10 days of when a policy ends. . . .

“Agriculture is an unusual area for venture capital, but we submit that agricultural technology has the same potential as biotechnology had in pharmaceuticals or chips had in telecommunications,” Khosla said on Monday.

Google Ventures, meanwhile, is attracted to WeatherBill by “the power of massively parallel computing infrastructure, which was not possible even 10 years ago,” said Managing Partner Bill Maris. “We understand the problem and are looking forward to deploying resources to help them solve it. We have a cloud looking for big problems to solve.”

via Google Ventures, Khosla Make Rain For WeatherBill – Venture Capital Dispatch – WSJ.

Here is the website for the company, should you want to insure some crops: Weatherbill.

HT:  Rich Shipe.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Ah, farmer’s almanacs, anyone?

  • SKPeterson

    Ah, farmer’s almanacs, anyone?

  • WebMonk

    Google’s investments arm is all over the place, in that it invests in a WIDE range of opportunities. They do everything from real estate to insurance to infrastructure to manufacturing to just about any area I can think of.

    Maybe not mining, at least not that I’ve heard of.

  • WebMonk

    Google’s investments arm is all over the place, in that it invests in a WIDE range of opportunities. They do everything from real estate to insurance to infrastructure to manufacturing to just about any area I can think of.

    Maybe not mining, at least not that I’ve heard of.

  • Dust

    Not mining? does not “data” mining count with you :)

  • Dust

    Not mining? does not “data” mining count with you :)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    When I first read this post’s title, I thought it was referring to this story from a few years ago.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    When I first read this post’s title, I thought it was referring to this story from a few years ago.

  • Dust

    tODD….oh, that’s baaaaaaad :)

  • Dust

    tODD….oh, that’s baaaaaaad :)


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