Tools & data

Background

Farm data use moving to mainstream

The ag industry is on the cusp of truly beginning to utilise data within agriculture, says the Agricultural Data Coalition.

At the InfoAg Conference, held July 23rd-25th, a common and prevalent theme throughout several discussions on the trade show floor, as well as during sessions, suggested the ag industry is on the cusp of truly beginning to utilise data within agriculture, according to the Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC).

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Connecting multiple data sets

According to the ADC, there is a growing body of research that is outlining the benefits and returns possible through connecting multiple data sets in a timely manner to better inform in-season decisions or provide improved traceability and insight at a sub-field level. “What if farmers were able to better understand the conditions that made a wheat crop with higher protein, or corn with a higher test weight. This information can provide insight into how to make larger portions of the field achieve better quality to improve margins for the farmer.”

According to the ADC, “The excitement about using all the data being collected, analysing it using new tools powered by machine learning feels like it is starting to move from the early adopters experimenting with new tools to a broader swath of the market demanding proven, and tested solutions with a tangible return.”

Data as a valuable asset

Multiple panel discussions hit on the need for farmers to start treating the data generated on their operations as a valuable asset similar to their banking information. One example cited was with the growing pressure from consumers to understand where their food comes from and how it was grown; it isn’t difficult to imagine a situation in a couple years requiring farmers to prove that they have been making the right decisions in their fields, not just for complying with regulations, but also the environmental impact of different management practices.

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Multiple panel discussions hit on the need for farmers to start treating the data generated on their operations as a valuable asset similar to their banking information. - Photo: Peter Roek
Multiple panel discussions hit on the need for farmers to start treating the data generated on their operations as a valuable asset similar to their banking information. - Photo: Peter Roek

“If that data is in a desk drawer full of thumb drives or stored on a machine terminal that was traded in with the machine, providing this proof could be difficult. Even if the data has been uploaded into a FMIS type software system, often during the data ingestion process, it is cleaned and processed to fit into that system. The original controller files may be gone if they were not backed-up somewhere else and valuable information needed by a different system is gone since it was not needed for that application,” states the ADC.

Data deposit box

This thread carried through to the Ag Data Storage and Control session hosted by the ADC. The panel discussed a wide range of topics that clearly outlined the need for farmers to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their data. According to the ADC, there is a growing list of reasons why they need to maintain an original record of files from machine controllers in a “data deposit box” they can go back and get historical records from.

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“It was also clear that digital assets are different than other physical assets farmers value and protect. Often the value in the data generated on a farm is only realised when shared with an advisor or merged with another dataset, however the original file does not have to be consumed in the process. It can be saved, and referenced again and again to continue to provide value to the operation, or to contribute to broader learning though research projects and other initiatives,” concludes the ADC.

Also read: Do not be too concerned about sharing data

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