Sitting in a few conferences — and conversations — toward the end of 2015, it became clear that 2016 will be a year when many farmers may lean on their own collected data more than ever to manage inputs and boost returns where possible. The big concern hovering over many of those conversations is the issue of data control and ownership.
First, the American Farm Bureau Federation is nearing the end of its development of a tool that will give privacy agreements for the data system and provide a kind of grade or rating, which should offer you some peace of mind when looking at a service.
Second, more services are getting better at talking to the different players. Open system approaches are more common for farm equipment makers, and the “decision tool” creators are working on ways to capture that data to help you make decisions.
As you go into 2016, however, it makes sense to know the kinds of data you’re working with, and understand the difference of each and their value for your farm.
Private data. This is truly private information, like credit card numbers or your Social Security number. This information should be protected, and is usually not shared or used by any of the tech firms serving agriculture.
Machine data. This is pretty self-explanatory. This information, often shared with the manufacturer, offers insight into machine productivity, causes of downtime and other information that can be deployed in future designs.
Agronomic data. This is information you gather from fields each year. It is information you would share with a trusted adviser to perhaps get a variable-rate fertilizer prescription file. This information is the core of some dispute as farmers work with more cloud-based systems. Knowing your agreements and what they say will help give you peace of mind about how this information is to be used.
If you’re getting into more cloud-based data systems, you’re going to want to make sure you have the infrastructure on your farm to get the best results. The data-transfer systems used by major manufacturers count on good cellular service to move that information from machine to cloud — and the companies have that worked out.
However, on your farm, it’s time to do an inventory of your computer resources. If you’re going to manage your operation from the cloud, you need to be connected with a good high-speed network. In addition, if you haven’t upgraded your computer in five years or more, consider a bump up to a new machine. Your on-farm “data infrastructure” should get a checkup every two or three years, given the way data plans and high-speed Web access prices keep changing.
Decision Time is independently produced by Penton Agriculture and brought to you through the support of Case IH. For more information, visit farmindustrynews.com/decisiontime.