Is Precision Agriculture finally taking root? From Forbes Contributor Heather Clancy

A couple of months ago, I profiled ex-Microsoft bigwig exec Jeff Raikes, who led the Gates Foundation for five years before “retiring” May 1 to focus more time on his own philanthropic interests. Chief among Raikes’ post-Gates Foundation concerns will be how to use technology to revolutionize agriculture: everything from small farms to massive operations like the 5,000-acre one his family still owns in Ashland ASH -1%, Neb.

In fact, a fun piece of Raikes trivia is that he landed his first tech industry job as an Apple AAPL -0.42% engineering manager only after a “practice interview.” His rationale for attending Stanford University was to learn technology skills that could help him run his father’s farm more efficiently. Somewhere along the way, he took a detour and worked with Bill Gates for three decades. But you can expect to hear far more from Raikes in the months to come.

“I’m very passionate about agriculture and agricultural productivity and how that can be transformative,” he told me. “It was transformative for me and my family. My dad took over our family farm in 1932, right in the midst of the Depression. He turned it into a great farm and a great farming business, and that allowed my mom and dad’s five kids to have great access to education, and that is the same thing that I see in the developing world. When farmers have more productivity and a little income, then they figure out how to invest in the education of their children.”

One of the hottest topics of conversation right now in agricultural and high-tech circles is precision agriculture, the use of GPS services, sensors and Big Data analytics to conserve water and improve crop yields. Read more of this article at