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The power of the crowd

Kris Carlson  

Kris Carlson  

Using mobile technology to crowdsource market insights

Imagine a commodities professional thinking, “If only I could talk to farmers across the world in real time, I would know what’s actually happening on the ground with corn crop supply.” Commodities markets are driven primarily by the dynamics of supply and demand which ultimately drive price volatility. The more detail you have around these dynamics, the more confidence you can have in building trading, hedging or procurement strategies.

In the agriculture markets, it has traditionally been difficult and expensive to generate this level of detail for farmland across the world, including an understanding of what crops are being grown, the quality of crops and potential size of harvest. With constantly changing weather conditions, evolution in crop technology and management, potential disease and infestation, and differences in soil quality, a timely understanding of how these factors are affecting the crop is key in terms of building a credible picture of overall market supply. Thomson Reuters already uses satellite data to verify crop rotation patterns and plant health, however “boots on the ground” are a critical element of any crop production methodology. This type of analysis is time-consuming and expensive for analysts to carry out globally in all of the major crop production areas that Thomson Reuters monitors.

Enlisting the help of farmers has always seemed like a logical improvement in information gathering – but how could this be possible, and what would entice farmers to share critical information?

The use of technology to gain and share information is more and more prevalent in the heartland of America, just like in the streets of any major city these days. The problems of remote access to the Internet and mobile phone connectivity are quickly becoming problems of the past. These days your average farmer is likely to be packing an Android™ or iPhone® full of apps to help keep up with the world around them and manage their operation.

Thomson Reuters has taken it a big step forward. A mobile application – Thomson Reuters Data Share – was created for use by farmers and producers to contribute proprietary and primary location-based data around the crops they are growing (acreage and yield). In exchange for this data farmers can receive weather forecasts, market pricing and global production forecasts, and soon they may be able to see comparisons of their performance versus peers in their area. A win-win for all.

This granular level of information enables Thomson Reuters to build an incredibly detailed view of supply of various crops – data that is analyzed and then shared as forecasts to customers operating in the financial markets via their Thomson Reuters Eikon™ desktops allowing them to make more confident decisions. In exchange, farmers are provided with high-level insight from a trusted source into the usually opaque markets in which they operate. This allows them to better market their products and plan their planting based on reliable, trusted data.

The goal of Data Share is to create well-informed markets with greater transparency – for example, sharing information on global crop conditions, supply chain disruptions, pricing and other logistics of the business that will help both analysts and farmers. In addition, in order to increase usage, the built-in reward system helps keep participants engaged.

Larry Winger, a farmer in Benton County, Indiana, has been participating in Data Share. It’s going “to be very important. One of the things that attracted me to Data Share was that the information was being collected by Thomson Reuters. Unbiased, accurate reporting is something that farmers definitely need. A lot of the information that we’re asked for, we never know the source or how the information is going to be used. With Thomson Reuters, we know the information is going to be accurately gathered and reported, so that we can trust it.”

Trials have shown that trust is a key factor on several levels, with participants trusting Thomson Reuters to gather and use data for the right reasons in an ethical manner. For example, Thomson Reuters has no commercial interest in the information gathered from farmers i.e., selling them seeds, tractors or fertilizer. That trust is reflected in the fully branded app used by participants available via the Apple® App Store℠ and Google Play™ – again, providing the tools through a trusted source.

One of the most exciting things about Data Share is that it is a fully flexible app that can be adapted for use across other industries. Thomson Reuters has already begun work to apply Data Share to industries in the Risk & Compliance, Legal and other Commodities markets such as precious metals that could be launched later in 2016. The model will remain the same, with the “crowd” providing valuable, relevant data that would be difficult and costly to gather without the use of technology. Once gathered, it is analyzed by Thomson Reuters and shared with customers who can then make more informed decisions about markets. Increased participation from the crowd is rewarded with helpful information otherwise not available.

Data Share provides something for everyone and reflects the market in real time. There is real power in the crowd.

Apple and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Android and Google Play are trademarks of Google Inc.

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