Beck's is the latest player in the 'big data' farm market and its focusing on a key issue impacting producers: data ownership.
There are times when I look back and think about the pace of change I get excited. For example, if you had told me five years ago that we'd be all excited about unmanned aerial vehicles I would have thought you a little crazy. Same goes for another hot, and sometimes contentious, issue for the farm - data management.
The rise of easy data sharing thanks to a spreading network of reliable systems - like Verizon's LTE network - makes it easier to get info out of the cab of your combine, tractor, sprayer than ever before. The trick is having it someplace you can use it, and of course who's going to own the data.
Beck's - the eastern Corn Belt seed innovator that is moving into parts of Iowa and Missouri - is entering the data market with a new product it calls FARMserver. Building data storage houses is frankly pretty easy for someone in the information technologies world, businesses build their own 'clouds' all the time. However, FARMserver joins a growing crowd of ag systems and one way it's setting itself apart is the control of the data.
The farmer will not only own the data, but will also control it," says Brent Minett, FARMserver field manager. He makes the point that every service touts that you own your data, it's the control issue that's a challenge. He uses the analogy of loaning your car to someone else and they have an accident - you 'own' the car, but at that moment someone else 'controlled' it.
That means you can get your data that you've collected from a range of sources - even outside providers like custom sprayers or consultants - into the system and you then control who sees it. Need your agronomist to pull some of your data to make some decisions? You can provide him/her with a username and password. An interesting feature of this is that you can set a time limit on how long that user/password combo works.
"You can time the access those trusted advisers have," says Minett.
He adds that the information you load onto FARMserver is archived until you leave. So if you stay for 20 years, all your data will still be available to you for the base $599/year fee. "Some service remove data after a specific period of time and we won't," he says.
You load your data into the system in the conventional way - it comes off your system using that thumb drive and you load it using your computer, at least for now. But once you have data into FARMserver you can access through any Web-connected device using a simple interface Beck's has developed.
The system works with any data collection service - are you using AgLeader on one machine and perhaps GreenStar on another? No worries, move all the data into this single, secure cloud-based system and you have all the information in one place.
Minett also stresses that Beck's will own the servers and is not farming out (as it were) the data management as some other companies do. That's a company choice. Frankly if the Department of Defense trusts Amazon to host data (as some ag companies do) it can't be all bad. But Minett stress that Beck's will maintain full control of the system and it's a high-securty setup.
That $599 is a base cost and gets your information stored and secure. If you want to turn to Beck's for help for field advisory services there would be a per-acre charge for that. It varies for the service you offer.
FARMserver will help solve the multi-data collection problem of getting all your information in one place. Best thing to do is check out FARMserver.com to learn more about how the service might work on your farm. And if you use it, drop a comment below. We'd love to hear what you think.