IBM doesn’t seem to be the type of company that produces products for agriculture, but that’s no longer the case. Recently, the computer giant introduced the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture to help farmers make better decisions. The platform combines data and artificial intelligence to provide multiple solutions to everyday problems.

There is a wealth of information that either is, or could be, collected by farms that can lead to innovation and improve competitiveness. Exactly how to capitalize on this information remains a puzzle for many. The Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture is an attempt to solve the riddles of a fragmented and siloed industry.

The process begins by creating an electronic field record (EFC) as a beginning reference for each farm. The record provides a historical snapshot of the farm as well as real time observation. The type of data collected for the record includes weather information that includes forecasts as well as seasonal and sub-seasonal history; soil information including moisture and nutrient content, fertility and soil type; and farm practice information such as planting and harvesting dates, fertilizer and pesticide application rates, and harvest outputs. Also, high definition visual imagery collected from satellites, drones and/or airplanes is added to the record.

Once collected, the Watson platform applies artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced analytics to automatically produce recommendations to guide a farmer’s decision making. Results can be easily interpreted from a unified dashboard and alerts are provided related to weather conditions, evaporation and crop stress.

While Watson likely can’t replace a lifetime of experience, at least it would be nice to have a good friend who agrees with you more often than not.