New York Times, By QUENTIN HARDY, Oct 11, 2011
... We took 60 years of crop yield data, and 14 terabytes of information on soil types, every two square miles for the United States, from the Department of Agriculture," says David Friedberg, chief executive of the
Climate Corporation, a name WeatherBill started using Tuesday.
"We match that with the weather information for one million points the government scans with Doppler radar - this huge national infrastructure for storm warnings - and make predictions for the effect on corn, soybeans and winter wheat."
The product, insurance against things like drought, too much rain at the planting or the harvest, or an early freeze, is sold through 10,000 agents nationwide. The Climate Corporation, which also added Byron Dorgan, the former senator from North Dakota, to its board on Tuesday, will very likely get into insurance for specialty crops like tomatoes and grapes, which do not have federal insurance.
Like the weather information, the data on soils was free for the taking. The hard and expensive part is turning the data into a product. Mr. Friedberg was an early member of the corporate development team at Google. The co-founder, Siraj Khaliq, worked in distributed computing, which involves apportioning big data computing problems across multiple machines. He works as the Climate Corporation's chief technical officer. Out of the staff of 60 in the company's San Francisco office (another 30 work in the field) about 12 have doctorates, in areas like environmental science and applied mathematics.