Home New tools coming to handle Big Data

New tools coming to handle Big Data


computer-worldMuch like the average consumer with a smartphone and a computer, the average farmer is generating an enormous amount of data every time he or she runs modern farm equipment.

Up until now, one challenge has been finding ways to easily access that data and put it to use on the farm. A new initiative among several land-grant universities, agricultural information companies and the American Farm Bureau Federation seeks to bridge that gap.

The newly formed Agricultural Data Coalition will offer farmers a place to send all the data they’re generating so it can be held and aggregated for them. Farm Bureau believes that data is the property of the farmers who generated it, and the coalition is working to give them better control of how it is shared, stored and used. Many farmers either have little access to data generated by their tractors, GPS systems, moisture sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles, or they have to send it to their corporate partners.

“This is one of the things that I hear from growers, that there is a need for a better way to actually apply the data on their farms, to make them more efficient. There are growers looking for that,” said Keith Balderson, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Essex County.

Consumers are just learning how social media and other Internet applications are generating purchase patterns and locations with search engines, said Robert Harper,Virginia Farm Bureau Federation grain marketing manager. Thanks to GPS and sensor arrays, farmers have been generating similar data points for years. The difference is many growers want to control how that data is used and possibly use it themselves to make their farm operations more efficient.

“Just like consumers, some growers are earlier adapters for these new tools. Some are excited but have a learning curve, and some will only want to focus on what they already know how to do well,” Harper said. “But there’s a lot of interest in tapping into that information.”

In recent years some Virginia producers have been using yield maps of their fields built from GPS tracking to better pinpoint nutrient applications, Balderson said. “After a few years they can see weaker parts of the field, and they’re making changes to their applications.

“The whole idea is how it can help a grower become more efficient. All this data is good, but ultimately it has to lead to better profitability. It’s easy to become overloaded with information.”

Growers who want to learn more about the Agricultural Data Coalition can visit the group’s website, agdatacoalition.org, and sign up for email updates. The coalition also is on Facebook and Twitter.



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