Grower expectations for ag data services and tools

The Ag Data Space continues to be disruptive with long-standing and new companies coming to market with a variety of what is called digital platforms and tools.

The term Big Data continues to be a term that garners attention in the press. Big Data itself can be defined as data whose scale, diversity, and complexity require new architecture, techniques, algorithms, and analytics to manage it and extract value and hidden knowledge from it. There are many descriptive terms to make up this definition, but simply consider Big Data as the aggregation of data then employing new analyses or queries to bring innovative learning. Big Data can exist with private (e.g. farm data), public (most notably government data such as USDA data layers), or a combination of both. The goal in agriculture is to use data to ultimately drive decisions and profitability at the farm.

“Digital Agriculture” is the new term within agriculture having four components: precision agriculture, prescriptive agriculture, enterprise agriculture and big data. An important component here in Ohio is the progression of how precision agriculture technology will enable farmers, retailers and custom applicators to enhance nutrient management in regards to placement, timing and generation of new data layers for evaluating success. However, agriculture is just starting to embark on this evolution digital agriculture.

The area of current growth is around prescriptive agriculture, where a farmer provides data to data service and in return receives recommendations, information and prescription (Rx) maps for inputs. Interests in Prescriptive Agriculture continues to grow here in Ohio where growers are beginning to understand the value of using data to evaluate practices and inputs while developing site-specific management (e.g. Rx).

While prescriptive agriculture brings opportunities, it along with the Big Data focus these days can bring confusion to the value and what data services to use. In 2013, Auburn University published results of a survey asking growers to list “What are the needs related to data management at the farm level in order to make it more successful and valuable?” These results provide insight into what will make data use successful at the farm. In order of relevance, growers indicated the following for data success.

1)    Automatic wireless data transfer

2)    Help getting started in data management with local support and training

3)    Simplified farm management information software with preference of web-based.

4)    Quick start guides

5)    Standardized data and compatibility between different brands.

Additionally, it was noted that data tools and services need to be simple and personalized in order for them to be adopted and effectively used. These are good elements to keep in mind for the agriculture industry as we work through this evolution of digital agriculture. The availability of data tools for farmers and their agronomists continues to grow as evidence all the new APPs available. These tools will be become valuable to the grower and agronomists as the above five points are addressed. You can find more information about Precision / Prescriptive Agriculture at the Ohio State Precision Ag website (www.OhioStatePrecisionAg.com).

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