Having your farm39s information in a single place where you can track key issues will be important for management in the future enotmaks/iStock/Thinkstock

Having your farm's information in a single place where you can track key issues will be important for management in the future.

Putting data dashboards to work

You have a lot of information to deal with, get it all in one place.

Farmers are busy folks and many times there's a lot of information floating around that you have to track down manually. That will be ending soon as more software works together in your operation, but then you'll want to look at ways to pull that information into one place. The idea is to create a data dashboard.

This is a popular idea in the silicon valley world, as more information is stored on the cloud it becomes possible to share your information into a single location.

Chances are you have something already as a kind of make-shift dashboard, where you have a series of pages - perhaps market charts, weather, and other information on different web screens.

The key to a dashboard is to pull that information into one place so when you log on all the information you need is right there. Some data-focused companies are getting there as they work to pull information into one place.

How could a data dashboard help you? Mostly by helping you keep up especially at your busiest time. Mobile-friendly dashboards of information from real-time data sources are a kind of information nirvana. While it's not possible yet on a broad scale, as more systems start talking to each other, pulling that information into a single screen would have tremendous value especially when you're on the go.

A graphical approach

There are several outside tools for creating data dashboards, all are web-based and create insights that also look good on a smart phone or tablet. The key is accessing the information you need. And while these are not widely used in ag yet, getting your head around the potential is the first step.

Most data dashboard products pull information from Excel files on your computer and create useful information and that's a good starting point. As software evolves and reporting tools get better from ag data-focused products, linking to that information to put on a master data dashboard will give you an instant bird's-eye view of the business with trendlines that could help you better understand your business.

Some potential harvest dashboard items might include fuel use for all your machines, which could come from your accounting software as you pay fuel bills. Weather information could be put on the same screen showing you key indicators for your area - whether rain is headed in or when fields may dry out.

These are simple ideas, but the point is that information in a dashboard system is graphical, with charts that provide a lot of information at a glance. This is not something you gaze at all day. Instead, this is a way to take the pulse of your operation and know if you're on track for profit, or where you need to make changes for improved performance.

Precision ag software with real-time input from machines will be the first "dashboards" that many farmers will see. The ability to look at what your machines are doing, as they do it, offers significant potential to boost efficiency. As these systems evolve, other information can be added as tech partners deploy application program interfaces to share data.

In the future, you'll be looking at one screen and seeing all of your operation at work.

Decision Time: Technology is independently produced by Penton Agriculture and brought to you through the support of Case IH. For more information, visit farmindustrynews.com/decisiontime.

TAGS: Technology
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