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150余年精耕农业,这家“老字号”为何钟情卫星和AI

Jonathan Vanian 2018年09月28日

有153年历史的食品生产巨头嘉吉公司是人工智能和通信卫星技术的坚定拥护者。

本周一,在芝加哥举行的《财富》年度头脑风暴重塑大会上,嘉吉公司(Cargill)副总裁兼全球分析业务负责人詹姆斯·威德解释了嘉吉与数据分析公司笛卡尔实验室(Descartes Labs)合作的缘由。位于美国新墨西哥州的笛卡尔实验室,是一家专注于应用机器学习等AI技术分析卫星图像数据的初创公司。

威德说,与笛卡尔实验室合作很有意义,通过合作,嘉吉可以了解卫星图像技术是否可以用来更好的预测农作物产量。

威德表示,目前有很多公司声称拥有AI和机器学习技术,具备引领潮流的多种热门能力。声势浩大的宣传令大企业了解合作方难上加难。

据介绍,嘉吉与笛卡尔实验室的合作开始于一些未指定的测试试验,测试结果也让嘉吉感到满意。

一些外界人士会问,如果测试结果那么好,嘉吉为什么不直接收购笛卡尔实验室。威德解释道,这主要是担心笛卡尔实验室这样的小公司会在一家巨无霸公司内部官僚体制内迷失方向,其具有的“价值会消磨一空”。

作为卫星图像领域的初创公司,笛卡尔实验室能够以灵活、高效的方式运作,威德担心,一旦被大企业招入麾下,这一优势将会消耗殆尽。

“因此我们采用了合作的方式,让他们独立经营。”威德这样表达嘉吉的决定。他认为,合作方式让嘉吉可以和笛卡尔实验室共同开展多项测试,而不是受其庞大业务的影响。

据媒体报道,嘉吉除了是笛卡尔实验室的客户,还在2017年参与了该公司规模3000万美元的一轮融资。(财富中文网)

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

Speaking at Fortune’s annual Brainstorm Reinvent conference on Monday in Chicago, Cargill’s vice president and leader of global analytics James Weed explained the reasoning behind his company’s partnership with the data-crunching startup Descartes Labs. The New Mexico startup specializes in using AI technologies, like machine learning, to analyze satellite imagery.

It made sense for Cargill to sync up with Descartes Labs so the food giant could learn whether its’ satellite imagery technology could be used to better forecasts crop yields, Weed said.

Weed said that there’s currently “a lot of companies promising AI and machine learning” as well as “all of the different buzzwords” that are trendy. This amount of noise makes it “challenging for big companies to know who you partner with.”

Cargill debuted a few unspecified test trials with Descartes Labs, and was pleased with the results.

Weed said that outsiders asked him why Cargill didn’t simply buy Descartes Labs, if the results were so good. Weed explained that his main concern was that the tiny Descartes Labs would get lost within the bureaucracy of a giant company, and that “the value would disappear.”

The satellite imagery startup is able to operate in a fast and agile way, and Weed was worried that its speed and efficiency would wither if it was absorbed into a big company.

“Let’s partner and keep them separate,” Weed said of the company’s decision. This partnership lets Cargill conduct multiple test runs with Descartes Labs “instead of doing this big shock and awe with our business,” Weed said.

Besides being a Descartes Labs customer, Cargill also contributed to a $30 million investment round in 2017, according to media reports.

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