"BIG DATA" LESS SCARY WHEN SECURITY AND TRANSPARENCY ARE PRESENT

Todd Sears

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One of my biggest frustrations is how the phrase “Big Data” is used to bully and intimidate farmers into thinking that they should be wary of data on their farm. There is no more powerful tool for the independent producer than managing their own data. Harnessing that information properly puts decision-making power in the farmer’s hands.

The conversation around data is really heating up. I thought Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst got it right in his testimony to the House Agriculture Committee when he said, “Big Data will lead to at least as much change in agriculture as the Green Revolution or biotechnology.”

But how do you get past that intimidation factor? The first thing to work through is understanding who owns your information and how it is being used.

Storage and Safeguarding Data

Data has tremendous value to independent farms. That’s why you see the big ag corporations making large investments in this area. There are also many new companies on the marketplace who are jumping in and just focusing in on individual data points as a magic solution. I encourage farmers to be careful with these claims and see the bigger picture - every data point on your farm is valuable across the annual cycle of your crops, from purchasing your seed to storing and selling your grain.

With different new entities in the marketplace offering new data solutions or wanting to be involved in how farms manage data, farmers today need to be discerning about their motives. These entities should be able to fully disclose what their intentions are with the data and if it is being shared. Farmers must be able to ask them tough questions and get clear answers.

For independent producers, it can be difficult, but at the same time, incredibly important to own, safeguard, and store the large amounts of data you will generate. One of the other things MFB President Blake Hurst told Congress in his testimony was, “We must do everything we can to ensure producers own and control their data, transparently ascertain what happens to data, and have the ability to store the data in a safe and secure location.”

That’s where a partner like IntelliFarms comes in. Our philosophy is to provide the highest degree of data security and guarantee farms full access to their own data. We live and operate with the belief that “they who own the dirt should have the power.” For a farmer, part of having and keeping that power is owning the data on your farm. We put all security measures in place to be a partner who helps farmers harness the power of their on-farm data, and ensure that it is always safe and, ultimately, theirs.

Adding Value and Precision

“Big Data” isn’t actually so big — in fact it can actually be managed to fit the size and scope of an individual operation — but what does it actually add in value?

There are three things farmers will always worry about: Water, weather, and prices. While all three are external factors that can be completely out of anyone’s control, I believe farmers today have the ability to better adapt their operations using data in order to stay profitable. For example, using data to better understand how the weather patterns in the area affect crop maturity and harvest dates will pre-emptively prepare farmers for storage and marketing decisions. And soil moisture and temperature being transmitted from the fields can help farms more precisely and efficiently irrigate. Hundreds of other data-enabled opportunities abound – all with great potential to add value and build margins.

I’ll discuss how data works in the marketplace in a separate post. I look forward to shrinking the myths around “big data” and discussing how it can be put to work for today’s farms.