Independent farmers face a serious silo problem. It’s hard to know which seeds grow best (or even what to pay for them—same with fertilizer and chemicals) when you’re the only operation for miles. So the three-year-old Farmers Business Network empowers growers to harvest each other’s information. Big Ag may be consolidating, but FBN “is reinventing the farm economy” to fight back, says cofounder Charles Baron. The service aggregates and anonymizes data—everything from seed and soil types to elevation and weather patterns—to create a crowdsourced database that eliminates guesswork.
“We democratize the information,” says Baron, “for farmers to share with each other and use for their own benefit.” For between $500 and $600 a year, members of the collective can access performance data for more than 25 crops across 2,500 regularly grown seed lines. Growers can also track harvests in real time, giving them a jump on what the national market will look like months ahead of USDA analysts. In addition, FBN combines the buying power of its members to offer chemicals and fertilizer at up to 50% off. In 2016, FBN more than doubled its membership for a group that’s now 3,200 farms strong, representing 11 million acres across 31 states.