What is in this article?:
Farmers will find a lot of options for cloud-based computing in this year. Easier access to data for sharing with others, or for yourself, is one key benefit. Understand the relationships with companies that offer services.
Aggregating, or anonymizing, data
Just what is aggregated data? Take seed company information. You plant a specific hybrid on your field in a specific location, and record the yield. If you work with a seed company that aggregates data, and you opt in, your hybrid, location and yield data would be pulled together with others’ information to create a bigger map of that hybrid’s performance.
You don’t need a cloud data service to do that. In fact, whenever you share data, with or without the cloud, it can be collected and used by third parties (depending on their privacy policies). And the idea isn’t uncommon. Farm business management associations have been taking financial data and creating benchmarking tools for years that help farmers manage their businesses.
“We have a long history of working with farm data,” says Joe Foresman, director of services, DuPont Pioneer. “We’ve been building farm yield maps for more than 10 years with information from 12 million acres at harvest and another 8 million at planting.”
The company’s Field360 program is one where farmers can submit their data to DuPont Pioneer to have custom yield maps created. In some cases, farmers work with Pioneer to run “treatment analysis” on crop inputs to determine input performance on their farm. Field360, the company’s cloud-based service, also allows farmers to move, store and share data more easily.
Gather enough aggregated information matched to general soil type, weather and yield information, and a company has better performance information for that specific hybrid in a number of situations.
During a recent talk, Michael Boehlje, Purdue University ag economist, commented: “Data without aggregation is just data.” He notes that a single farm’s annual data is just one set and not enough information to make any conclusions.
“A farmer who has only his own information only has one observation per year, and may not have the controls to separate out the [range of] variables that explain that yield,” Boehlje noted. “One of the ways to make that data more useful is to have multiple sets of observations to separate the [variables] that explain yield differences.”
The key is seeing the big picture and having better decision-making information for choosing hybrids in the future. Of course, that information is valuable to companies as well, since aggregated performance data is like a giant yield trial that can be more accurate than small plot work.
Many players see that opportunity to provide your farm with better information. Over at Monsanto, FieldScripts, which was piloted in 2013, is moving forward in 2014. “We can analyze farm data to build better ‘scripts’ today and for farmers in the future,” says Dave Rylander, FieldScripts launch lead, Monsanto.
Rylander says there’s a lot of talk about this data aggregation and data privacy. He wants farmers to have a clear understanding of the benefits offered. “They ask, ‘Will you aggregate or use my data to help build other FieldScripts?’ And I would say, ‘Yes, and we learn from this data,’ ” he notes. “We’ve learned from all the experiences on FieldScripts and learned what to look at in their data to build a better prescription for the future.”
In fact, Rylander says that for 2014 farmers that participate and want to take part may be asked to share more information. The idea is that over time this aggregated information will help Monsanto make better prescriptions. Those are goals for other providers that aggregate as well.