• • • The farm data overload needs a fix
Big data has been hailed as the future of agriculture for nearly a decade, and it’s easy to see why. As margins become razor thin and land prices skyrocket, farmers need to do more with less — maximizing every inch of rain every pound of fertilizer and every single seed — to make a profit. But at this point, farmers have picked the low-hanging fruit. Now, they’re looking for smaller tweaks that, when added up, can lead to big savings on the balance sheet.
“It’s all about being more profitable. It’s about maximizing the products that we’re using and being more efficient with our time and resources,” said Marvin Talsma, product marketing manager at the Climate Corporation. “Everything we’re doing is trying to make the next crop better. We’re trying to learn along the way and tweak things, whether it’s a fertility rate, seeding rate, seed placement, or water management. “We’re trying to improve, but without knowing what we’re doing, it’s hard to evaluate and make those decisions.”
That’s where data comes in — and the average farm collects a lot of it. Yield maps, soil moisture probes, variable-rate technology, drones, and GPS all generate data. But as Bruggencate points out, whether that data is useful is another question altogether. “That data needs to be usable,” said Talsma, one of the speakers at AgSmart, an event designed in part to give farmers a better sense of the practicality of new ag technology.