Cotton And Precision Ag: Playing MoneyBoll

Much like baseball, farming has always been illuminated by data. Take, for example, Babe Ruth. Would we have realized how special he was if we hadn’t kept meticulous records of the countless hitters who chased his records for decades, but fell short?

Growers have long known the same to be true for cotton production. Keeping track of on-farm variables — plant date, rain amounts, variety type, fertilizer applications — is the only way to impact success from an informed perspective. For decades, growers kept up with these data points in scribbled notes on coffee-stained paper, filed away in dusty old manila folders. But in an era when the World Wide Web is finally expanding into rural America, farm data is hitting its stride.

There’s no denying that data is the next big wave in precision agriculture. From the tradeshow to the turn row, it’s on the mind of suppliers and growers alike.

Industry giants such as John Deere have invested heavily in software that makes data available to growers in larger, more easily consumable quantities. And the quantities, or sample sizes, matter — a lot. After all, when compared with just one teammate, Babe Ruth was only the better of the two. But when compared with a larger data set — every other batter in the history of the game — he becomes one of the best of all time. Similarly, if growers are able to compare their own on-farm experiences with those of thousands of others, they’d have a much clearer understanding of the forces at work on their own operations.

But as Deere and others have discovered, compiling data — helpful statistics like yield patterns as they relate to rain amounts, variety types and fertilizer applications — is entirely dependent on having a network of growers who are willing to share their own findings. Data starts on individual farms with singular growers. Asking them to divulge those data points has, for whatever the reason, been a tall task.

“I don’t see how (data collection and sharing) works if the farmers don’t control it,” says Billy Tiller, a Lubbock, TX, cotton farmer, and Founder of Grower Information Services Cooperative (GISC). As a producer, Tiller says he understands growers’ hesitancy to share their own findings. “I think farmers would balk, if we begin to find out that someone had stabbed us in the back and used our data sets and sold it to someone else in the industry. What if a company started billing their products off of our data, and suddenly they’re charging us five more dollars per acre to sell us the same product? That’s something that would really bother me.”

But Tiller has long understood the immense value in data-sourcing and sharing between farmers. That’s why he founded GISC, which he describes as something of a grassroots effort to benefit growers across the nation.

Grower First

“I’m a cotton grower,” Tiller says, by way of introduction. “When I got started with this, look, I wasn’t going to build a data co-op. When I got started back in 2009, I was just talking to my crop insurance agent about how to move data more efficiently.”

The data he was eyeing back then wasn’t terribly complex.

“For instance, I just wanted to look at cotton production off the farm. The way I got it back then and actually the way I still get it today, I go over to the cotton gin and they print it off, I pull it, and I take it over to the crop insurance place and they re-key all the data. I said ‘This is crazy. We live in a world where we ought to be able to just pop this data out and move it over there without this much effort.’”

Tiller was also becoming more interested in incorporating data into his own farming decisions. Like many growers, he was keen on finding the best seed variety for his own farm, and as he says, “I needed good data to do that, but I couldn’t find a way to integrate a lot of the things I was coming across. I was building data sets, and I was just fed up.”

In 2010, Tiller and his West Texas counterparts had a massive crop, and he decided it was time to create the tools he needed to be able to create larger data sets. In the days before “the cloud” revolutionized storage, he says, he was eyeing servers that could host data for all who wanted to participate. The key to encouraging other farmers to participate, he thought, was privacy. He had to ensure his fellow growers that they would control who accessed their data.

Following His Instincts

His instincts were correct. Growers were attracted to his idea in droves. Today GISC has roughly 1,300 members across multiple crops in 37 states. The effort grew so quickly that Tiller realized he had to bring in someone who could manage the challenges of such a bustling startup. Enter Jason Ward, who came to GISC as Executive Director after a stint with another successful cotton cooperative — Staplcotn.

“We’ve focused on ‘What is the minimal thing we can build that optimizes the most value for that grower,’” Ward says. “We’ve come and said, ‘Let’s unite growers around data rights, around governance of that data.’  We’ve put the co-op together in order to own that data, to give governance of that data over to this organization. We are a true cooperative. When that data comes in, those growers are protected by other growers in the industry.”

GISC charges no membership fee, currently. Tiller and Ward stress that this venture is there to serve its members.

“We should have the most complete data set in the market, because only growers have all these points of interest — things like the date it was planted, the seed variety, the chemicals applied,” Ward says.

“We’re trying to create a very end-to-end complete view for the grower. How can you integrate that together? If we accomplish that, it will be the most valuable data set on the planet.”

Leave a Reply

Grower Services & Solutions Stories
Farmers Business Network, FBN Procurement
Data ManagementFBN Expanding, Rebranding Procurement; Launching Price Transparency App
December 13, 2016
Farmers Business Network (FBN), the independent farmer-to-farmer network, today announced the launch of major new technologies and services that expand Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsGrower Groups Encourage Implementation Of AgGateway’s ADAPT For Precision Ag
November 2, 2016
A dozen leading U.S. grower organizations are hailing the collaborative efforts that led to the new AgGateway ADAPT framework for Read More
Students Training
Grower Services & SolutionsPrecision Ag Students Learn How To Combine Technology And Customer Service
October 27, 2016
Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, IA, has partnered with AgriSync to help students gain experience and develop superior customer Read More
Corn Field
Grower Services & SolutionsCorn Growers On Big Plots Are Most Tech-Savvy Of Farmers
October 20, 2016
U.S. corn farmers are proving themselves to be quick learners, writes Mario Parker on Bloomberg.com. Growers producing the grain on Read More
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg.com featured image
ProfessionalsWelcome to the Newly Enhanced PrecisionAg.com
December 29, 2016
Talk a quick look around our website and we hope you’ll notice it’s significantly different as we head into 2017 Read More
Ryan Raguse and Matthew Grassi
ProfessionalsIndustry Executives Talk New PrecisionAg Professional Brand
December 19, 2016
EFC Systems President and CEO Ernie Chappell Myriad Mobile Cofounder and Chairman Ryan Raguse Read More
PrecisionAg Professional logo
Industry NewsMeister Media Debuts PrecisionAg Professional
December 13, 2016
Agricultural technology is accelerating, and precision agriculture is gaining renewed interest across cropping systems. At the same time, growers are Read More
NDSU IoT
Sensors/IoTNew Farming Focused IoT Partnership Announced
December 13, 2016
Infiswift, an enterprise Internet of Things (IoT) platform developer, announces a partnership to develop IoT solutions with Acuitus Ag, an Read More
GVM E-Series cab
Ag Tech GlobalGlobalization And Precision Agriculture
December 7, 2016
Globalization has taken on a negative connotation in some circles in the U.S. in recent months. The lightning rod for Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
Data ManagementFarmers Edge, Trotter Fertilizer Form Partnership To Enhance VRT Programs
November 29, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Trotter Fertilizer, Nebraska’s foremost Read More
Latest News
Sonny Perdue
Business ManagementAg Tech CEOs Weigh In On Trump’s Pick For Ag Secr…
January 20, 2017
With President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of Sonny Perdue as the new proposed Secretary of Agriculture, it brings a new set Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
EventsRetailers, Consultants Untangle Software Decision Proce…
January 19, 2017
Today, business and agronomy management software is the engine that facilitates a smooth running ag business. The next software decision Read More
Ag Weather Service
Decision Support SoftwareSciFi in Ag: Will Amazon’s Alexa Control the Fami…
January 19, 2017
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Data ManagementNew Partnerhship Between AgIntegrated, CDMS, SeediQ Wil…
January 18, 2017
AgIntegrated, Inc. (AGI), CDMS, Inc. and SeediQ announce a partnership to develop, promote, and sell a single-source crop input reference Read More
Corn Field Sunset
Ag Tech GlobalAg Technology Among Focus Areas For Kohli Impact Invest…
January 18, 2017
Tej Kohli, a serial entrepreneur, global businessman and philanthropist, has announced he has earmarked an initial $25 million USD, through his Read More
Terry Griffin
Business ManagementUsing High Tech To Make Farm Decisions
January 17, 2017
Raj Khosla, professor of precision agriculture at Colorado State University, challenged farmers to think about how far the technology of Read More
Decisive Farming My Farm Manager mobile app
Ag Tech GlobalLeading Canadian Farming Co-op Brings In New Tech To Bo…
January 17, 2017
Co-op, one of the largest agricultural retailers in Western Canada, is partnering with farm management company Decisive Farming to provide Read More
Business ManagementCNH Names Danford Industry Relations Manager
January 17, 2017
Dan Danford has been named Industry Relations Manager, Precision Solutions and Telematics (PS&T), for CNH Industrial, parent company of agricultural Read More
Australian Harvest
Ag Tech GlobalAustralian Precision Agriculture Market, Forecast To 20…
January 13, 2017
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Australian Precision Agriculture Market, Forecast to 2020” report to their offering. Read More
Norris planter
Innovation SeriesCompelling Consultant Panel Kicks Off Next Month’s Prec…
January 12, 2017
Jeremy Wilson, Technology Specialist at CropIMS and renowned precision expert, leads a panel of top precision consultants to kick off Read More
Data ManagementProspera Selected for Top 100 Artificial Intelligence R…
January 11, 2017
CB Insights today selected Prospera to the prestigious Artificial Intelligence 100 list (“AI 100”), a select group of emerging private Read More
Business ManagementBREAKING: FAA Considering Less Restrictive Commercial D…
January 11, 2017
FAA is working toward allowing more freedom for drone operators, and at the same time is working with NASA on Read More
DronessenseFly, Agribotix Combine eBee SQ and FarmLens Offeri…
January 11, 2017
Agribotix has partnered with senseFly to offer a new combined solution for professional users. This technology solution combines the top Read More
Sentera software
DronesSentera Announces NDVI Livestream Capabilities for Doub…
January 10, 2017
Sentera today announced the upcoming release of LiveNDVI Video: livestreamed NDVI video via Sentera’s Double 4K sensor. This breakthrough technology Read More
Young Corn Field
Ag Tech GlobalEurocontrol To Commercialize Precision Agricultural Ini…
January 9, 2017
Eurocontrol Technics Group Inc., a Canadian public company specializing in the acquisition, development and commercialization of innovative test and measurement Read More
Corn Field
Data ManagementWaypoint Analytical, Highland Precision Ag Announce Str…
January 9, 2017
Waypoint Analytical (WP), based in Memphis, TN, and Highland Precision Ag (HPA), based in Mulberry, FL, are pleased to announce Read More
Western Canada Wheat field
EventsSixth Annual Precision Ag Summit Set for January 16-17 …
January 4, 2017
The 6th annual Precision Ag Summit will be held Jan. 16-17, at the North Dakota Farmers Union Conference Center in Read More
University of California Merced Professor Stefano Carpin
Hort TechRobots, People Working Together To Save Water, Enhance …
January 3, 2017
A nearly $1 million grant from the USDA is helping University of California researchers refine collaborative robotic technology that could Read More