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To the cloud

Here are some key steps in prepping your information for maximum use with new data technologies.

The cloud. You may already be sick of hearing about it, yet more farmers are finding that having information stored off-site and online has advantages they never did before. Sharing information with those “trusted partners” can make a big difference in managing your business.

For example, as a combine leaves a field and sends yield data to the cloud, it’s possible for an agronomist with access to your cloud to grab that info and prepare a variable-rate fertilizer prescription for you to have someone “roll” with the next day. That timely management information has value.

Yet farmers will also find that moving legacy information to the cloud is a challenge. Here are some tips for helping make it easier:

Standardize field names. This may be your biggest headache, even for ground you’ve farmed for a long time. Ten years of yield data are hard to match up in the cloud if in some years that field as “North 40 Henderson,” and in other years it was “Henderson North 40.” The computer will not know those are the same field. So “normalizing” your data gets important. You want to be sure that field names, and boundaries, match when you upload.

Manage information. What has been applied on that field? Just like field names, the descriptions of tasks done on a field have to be consistent before they move to the cloud, or you’re just schlepping garbage from your hard drive to the Internet — and there’s no benefit to that. What did you apply, and when? Are the names standardized here, too? If you used atrazine, was it Aatrex or a generic? How about the fungicide used — did you describe it consistently around the farm? Many questions need to be answered.

Field boundaries. Are your field boundaries consistent year over year? If not, you’ll want to massage that, too. If you had one boundary when you started and that changed, older data could be wrong. That not only makes the data a challenge, but it can also mess up your input calculations.

Key lesson from all this? Everything has to match up. That’s why more software uses “pick lists” or “drop-downs” for you to choose products applied and amounts. And if you have to manually enter them, they will have to be consistent to make the cloud work for you. Once set up you’re done, but getting there will be quite a journey.

Talk with your dealer tech specialist to figure out the best approach. You’ll be glad you did.

TAGS: Technology
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