Thinking Data First: InfoAg 2015 Edition

InfoAg 2015
Many companies that exhibited at InfoAg 2015 are “Thinking Data First” in virtually every aspect of their day-to-day operations.

Chatting about Big Data in agriculture can be a mixed bag at times. There are companies and growers out there that harbor a Cold War era-esque suspicion that some faceless dark force is conspiring to steal and profit off their yearly data stores.

On the other side of the coin, there are many open and progressive groups that have no problem discussing their outlook and general philosophy on managing data. These companies are more than likely “Thinking Data First” in virtually every aspect of their day-to-day, and they made up a large proportion of the folks at this year’s InfoAg, which occurred in late July in St. Louis, MO.

While last year I focused on drone applications and other shiny new technologies such as Israeli firm Phytech’s “plant heartbeat” sensors, this year I wanted to go there with InfoAg attendees, to talk data with them, even if it made them as nervous as a long-tailed feline in a room full of rocking chairs.

Luckily for me (and this magazine), the folks at InfoAg were prepared to address my queries.

Old Friends

Take Randy Kasparbauer, technical product manager, John Deere, for instance. I’d met Kasparbauer back in November at Deere’s API-focused “Develop With Deere” conference in Kansas City, so I was already familiar with some of the work he and his colleagues had been engaged in ensuring Deere-branded equipment exchanges data with other systems. I wanted to get an update on the progress of Deere’s API initiative and I also found time to talk data in general with Kasparbauer, who indulged me as follows:

“I think we’re all in that same fight right now,” he said as we talked in the Deere booth. “Where we work as the API Enablement team is right with those software companies so if you’re working with a trusted advisor and you have a piece of software that uses precision ag data that you’re trying to make insights off of and it doesn’t connect to your MyJohnDeere account, we’re asking those software companies to get in touch with us, to get in touch with the API Enablement team and have us work through the integration and get them on board to leverage the connections that we provide.”

Aaron Hutchinson
Aaron Hutchinson (center) of iCropTrak says he thinks data vendors are trying to make data more manageable for end users.

Aaron Hutchinson, president and CEO, iCropTrak, is another prior contact (I met Hutchinson in Phoenix, AZ, this past spring during Commodity Classic) who’s brain I decided to pick on what he feels it means to think data first.

“One thing you need to keep in mind is to not let anything fall on the ground, because what we have learned from our time doing military work and other types of businesses in the past, is that we really don’t know what data we will need from the past in order to help us make decisions,” Hutchinson explained. “A lot of people are using historical GEDs over a season or historical weather patterns over a season, to actually forecast what this year will look like in comparison to past years. So something that’s relatively simple like that, that you can do in Excel, will give you the ability to make some advanced predictions without really having to have a complex set of tools. And I think what’s coming down the pipeline from all of the data vendors here at InfoAg is we’re trying to help you reduce that data into something a little more manageable. So Big Data in a sense will become automatically entered data.”

New Faces

Craig Houin, data management lead, Sunrise Cooperative (Fremont, OH), was one of the more interesting interviews from the week in St. Louis. Houin is the exact type of person we like to talk with for these types of articles — he’s in the field on a daily basis, working with growers on their data management efforts at the ground level.

“What we’ve done at Sunrise over the last few years since 2012 — especially with yield data — is we’ve been able to make applications for the grower’s P and K fertility program based off of yield data,” explained Houin. “One challenge we have in north central Ohio — especially when we are working in the Western Lake Erie Basin — is monitoring phosphorus and not over applying. So using just the straight yield data is not enough; we have to use soil test information coupled with the actual yield data and then we can develop a multi-input fertility recommendation based on that.

“We’re limited on what we can put phosphorus on; we cannot put any phosphorus in broadcast form on any field with anything over 40 ppm on the soil test reading, so we have to have that maximum level coupled with the yield data to make sure we put the right rate on in the right place. So using good quality yield data and good quality soil test information we are able to do that through the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program that we’ve implemented in Ohio due to the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.”

Another new contact I made at the show, WinField young gun Keaton Krueger, agriculture technology specialist, Northeast Iowa, talked about the planning aspect and how important it is to have a set “data game plan” going into the season and to stick with it.

“I’d say the key thing with managing data today is just planning,” recommended Krueger. “What I always say is, when we do the variable rate seeding for growers, the first time is always a challenge and everybody is always nervous. But every monitor that I’ve loaded with a prescription before March, I’ve never had a single problem. But sometimes when we’re in mid-March or early April and we’re rushing to get into the field and get everything planted on time, that time frame tends to be where we see the issues popping up. So planning is definitely a key aspect.

“The other thing is, as an industry we’re on the edge of the data storage systems changing a lot. The connections between everybody’s clouds are increasing. At WinField we have what we refer to as our ‘data silos’ which is basically where we’re going to store all of our information and also give our local cooperatives the opportunity to store a lot of their other information that wouldn’t be in our WinField tools, and then that way we can share to other equipment manufacturers and other programs so growers don’t have to go in manually and enter the same information for the same field in six different programs. It’s kind of like if you think of the way money moves between banks; I can go to Wells-Fargo and say send $100 to U.S. Bank and the next day it is there.”

It could be interesting to look back on this write-up next year during InfoAg 2016 to see how far we’ve progressed (or regressed) on the issues and challenges facing data management efforts in precision agriculture. Stay tuned to the “Think Data First” series in December for a grower-retailer profile on Minnesota grower Brad Hagen’s operation in Southeast Minnesota and his work with local cooperative Central Advantage GS on managing his data.

Leave a Reply

Events Stories
AmericasNFMS 2018: Precision Farming, Ag Tech Developments from Louisville
February 21, 2018
Last week’s annual National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) in Louisville, KY, was this author’s first experience attending the mid-winter Midwest Read More
Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
EventsInnovative Forum Geared to Let Food, Farming, and Tech Leaders Mix it Up
February 9, 2018
Industry innovators in agriculture, food, and information technology are set to mix it up again at this year’s Forbes Mixing Read More
EventsMonsanto, FBN Leaders Among Featured Speakers at World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit
January 23, 2018
The World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit returns to San Francisco on March 20-21, gathering over 600 major global agribusinesses, investors and Read More
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More
Trending Articles
Industry NewsNFMS 2018: Case IH Talks Autonomous Agriculture, Announces Pilot Program
February 20, 2018
Since the reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle, Case IH has been evolving the technology and further defining automation and Read More
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield and Halve Water Use
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentAutonomous Tractors Could Work in Wetter Conditions than Traditional Tractors
February 8, 2018
March 20th is the first day of spring, making spring much closer than even I expected. On the farm I Read More
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Latest News
AmericasNFMS 2018: Precision Farming, Ag Tech Developments from…
February 21, 2018
Last week’s annual National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) in Louisville, KY, was this author’s first experience attending the mid-winter Midwest Read More
Specialty CropsMaximize the Benefit of New Farm Technology
February 21, 2018
We have access to technology and information as never before. Working with vineyards in Virginia, I see examples of growers Read More
Industry NewsCropMetrics Names New CEO
February 20, 2018
CropMetrics, a leader in smart irrigation services in the U.S., and developer of the Virtual Optimizer software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, has Read More
Specialty CropsHow Wireless Technology Found its Way to a Central Cali…
February 20, 2018
At first glance, the story of Fybr isn’t an unusual one: a technology company looks toward U.S. agriculture as a Read More
AmericasAg Tech News: Mavrx Opens Satellite Platform to Entire …
February 20, 2018
The team at San Francisco, CA-based Mavrx has announced an initiative to increase access to advanced decision support tools in Read More
Industry NewsNFMS 2018: Case IH Talks Autonomous Agriculture, Announ…
February 20, 2018
Since the reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle, Case IH has been evolving the technology and further defining automation and Read More
Sensors/IoTWhy Are Service Providers Slow to Adopt Crop Sensors fo…
February 20, 2018
Recently, we have seen important discussions about key aspects of precision agriculture. One of these articles, about the value in Read More
Industry NewsUnderstory Patents Solid State Weather Sensor
February 16, 2018
Understory today announced that it received a patent for its mechanical strain-based weather sensor, a key component in its weather Read More
Retailer Grower
Business ManagementAgriculture and Technology: Industry Progress Lies in C…
February 16, 2018
Water is essential for agriculture. While this may seem obvious, nowhere is it more apparent than the Sonoran Desert of Read More
Industry NewsAgtegra Cooperative Pledges $500,000 to SDSU Precision …
February 15, 2018
Agtegra Cooperative, Aberdeen, SD, today in Pierre announced a $500,000 donation to South Dakota State University for the Precision Agriculture Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Business ManagementThe Importance of Teamwork for Successful Precision Ag …
February 15, 2018
Interdependency is defined as the quality or condition of being mutually reliant on each other. I’m not a huge sports Read More
Data ManagementAgriculture Impacts Weather: The Case for Connected Eco…
February 15, 2018
It’s fascinating to see how modern technology has helped us increase our agricultural productivity in areas not otherwise suited for Read More
Adapt-N VRT
Decision Support SoftwareDTN Partners with Adapt-N to Provide Weather and Nitrog…
February 14, 2018
DTN has announced a partnership today at the National Farm Machinery Show with Agronomic Technology Corp (ATC), a Yara International Read More
Corn close up
Imagery/SensingSyngenta Acquires Satellite Imagery Provider FarmShots
February 14, 2018
Syngenta has acquired FarmShots, Inc., a North Carolina-based innovator of high-resolution satellite imagery that detects plant health by analyzing absorbed Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentMachine Learning: The Secret Sauce of Precision Agricul…
February 13, 2018
With the development of agricultural technologies, crop and plant diseases have been advancing as well, causing degradation of both quality Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
Africa/Middle EastFarmers Edge Aligns with PartnerRE to Streamline Crop I…
February 13, 2018
Today Winnipeg-based FMIS giant Farmers Edge announced a partnership around crop insurance with Zurich-based PartnerRE. Although a bit short on Read More
Robotics Specialty Crops
AmericasHortau, Agrian Announce Strategic Partnership
February 12, 2018
Hortau today announced a strategic partnership with Agrian Inc. to deliver an expansive precision irrigation service for commercial agriculture. “With Read More
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield …
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More