Agrian, Inc. has been a leader in the development of a much-needed industry standard for agronomic labs to use when collecting, measuring and reporting field sample data and analytics. The Open Modus Standard provides the industry with a single, unified format for data management and exchange that can be used across Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) in support of precision agriculture.
Aaron Hunt, vice president of product development for agronomy at Agrian, noted that the proliferation of precision ag services and rapid expansion of agronomic field sampling and reporting, have created both opportunity and challenge for crop consultants, ag retailers and growers.
“More precise, microlevel crop data points afford agronomists an opportunity to optimize field-level recommendations for better soil, nutrient and nematode management,” said Hunt. “And the result is often greater yields and cost savings for growers. But the lack of an industry standard for lab submissions, measurement parameters and reports has severely limited the application of that data across the vast array of mapping, equipment and other Field Management Information Systems.”
In 2013, a team of industry leaders from agronomy labs, FMIS providers, academia and data management assembled to collaborate on a solution. Chris Langford, senior vice president with Memphis-based A&L Laboratories, was part of the working group that developed The Open Modus Standard.
“There has been an overwhelming need for an industry standard for agronomic data reporting and exchange,” said Langford. “There are literally hundreds of submission and reporting formats out there and making them work together, or reformatting the data so it works with other programs, takes an inordinate amount of time. It’s incredibly inefficient for everyone.”
Langford notes that for the industry to truly leverage “Big Data” in an efficient, productive manner that’s beneficial to all and easy for farmers to send to seed and mapping companies, there must be a common standard for effective data exchange.
“Especially as we look to dramatically increase the amount of data collected,” adds Langford. “We fully anticipate that soil sampling frequency will increase and sampling areas will tighten. So instead of every five acres, we’ll be sampling every two acres. Agrian’s leadership in expediting the development of a standard, and bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to get it done, was a great service to the industry and makes big data in precision ag more of a reality than a concept.”
Hunt said many labs already have begun to adopt the standard glossary of measurement terms and lab submission and result reporting templates. At A&L Laboratories, Langford said the adoption process begins with the lab reports. Once that piece is complete, A&L will work with its customers to adopt the submission report.
The new standard also has support from leading ag retailers and FMIS providers, which are preparing their systems for compatibility with data provided to them in the The Open Modus Standard reporting format.
Nishan Majarian, Agrian’s founder and CEO said the effort to develop The Open Modus Standard was collaborative and inclusive. “The realization of the need for and potential benefits of an industry standard has been very strong,” he said. “With the current state of fragmentation data trending and roll-out has been challenging, to say the least. Having a standard method to represent and transfer field sample information from testing labs to FMIS is a crucial step forward.”
The Open Modus Standard will represent nutrient and chemical analysis (soil and tissue), water analysis (irrigation and water quality), soil physical characteristics, and nematode and soil amendment (manure, compost, waste, etc.) residue sampling. The coalition of industry representatives developing Open Modus envisions the need for ongoing additions or updates as future data and lab procedure innovations are introduced.
In addition to Agrian and A&L Laboratories, the Modus Project includes representatives from Agrium, A&L Laboratories Great Lakes, AgJunction, Agricultural Laboratory Proficiency Program at the University of Colorado, Best-Test Analytical Services, Crop Production Services, Midwest Laboratories, Precision Agra-Lab, Serviette Labs, Topcon Precision Agriculture and Wilbur-Ellis Co., to name a few.