Market Disruption in Agriculture

The intersection of intellectual property and agriculture.

The intersection of intellectual property and
agriculture.

When one looks for what is commonly referred to as a “Market Disruptor” in neighboring Silicon Valley, most would not look to agriculture. Yet agriculture is poised for massive market disruption and World Ag Expo 2015 was the stage to see it.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (e.g. “drones”), satellite imagery and remote sensing technologies for water, moisture, soil, nutrient, and pest information were just the beginning. The “big data” generated from all of these developments soon will drive the need for data management solutions and next generation analytics, where, based on this information, agribusiness professionals (and/or artificial intelligence) will be able to manage operations through such tools as precision irrigation, precision fertilizer application, GPS guided crop spraying and robotics. Along with this technology comes a host of other related issues, such as data privacy, data ownership and network security, especially in light of network hackers.

In addition to the market disruption caused by developments in information technology is the market disruption caused by developments in the life sciences. Microbial solutions for pest and soil management are gaining traction. The dramatically reduced cost of sequencing a human genome equally applies to the dramatically reduced cost of sequencing crop and animal genomes.

Thinking ahead, even more fascinating is the intersection of agriculturally driven bioinformatics and human driven bioinformatics. For example, a person may currently have access to his or her genomic data, blood-based data and daily metrics that are automatically uploaded to the Internet by way of human sensors, such as exercise watches and networked bathroom scales. Human nutrient deficiencies and issues such as increased susceptibility to a particular disease may be readily identified and remedied by a personalized diet based on specifically identified crop and animal products. Moreover, such data may motivate the biological modification of crop and animal products to make them more beneficial for human consumption.

Market disruption, however, does not happen in a vacuum. Large corporations are generally too large and bureaucratic to internally generate disruptive technology. Instead, market disruption tends to arise from small, smart and fast-paced start-ups, even in the San Joaquin Valley.

Start-ups require key essential players such as Silicon Valley venture capitalists and intellectual property lawyers. Indeed, Silicon Valley venture capital has already infiltrated the San Joaquin Valley, as evidenced by venture capitalist powerhouses Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Draper Fisher Jurvetson funding Visalia based alternative fuel developer, Edeniq, Inc.

One key player in the Silicon Valley start-up environment that was present at World Ag Expo 2015 was the Menlo Park law firm of Carr & Ferrell, LLP. A full service firm, Carr & Ferrell, LLP has provided intellectual property support to such start-ups as Facebook. According to Carr & Ferrell, LLP Senior Counsel Brian Bathurst, “We are excited to be an exhibitor at World Ag Expo 2015. There is a wealth of innovation on display, some of which we have already undertaken to protect, such as that of Tillage Management, Inc. for their literal ground-breaking product, the OPTIMIZER. We have been meeting some of the technology driven companies at World Ag Expo 2015 and discussing how we may protect their investment in developing their intellectual property.”

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