ASABE Data Standards: Details And Opinions

Last week I shared the news that the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ASABE) will be developing and recommending a new standard for “geospatial mapping of crop yield, moisture content, and quality data, including defined data formats and uniform map presentation methods,” according to an ASABE release.

I asked the folks at the association who are heading up the standards development to answer a few questions about the process of developing a new standard. Dr. J. Alex Thomasson, Professor in the department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University, provided the following information about the “X611 standard project.”

What’s the history behind the decision to create a standard?

Discussions within ASABE’s PM-54 Precision Agriculture Committee began about 3 years ago. A need was recognized and discussed. An overture was made to ISO, but eventually the committee decided to develop a standard within ASABE that is compatible with ISO standards on the books.

What are the issues led to the conclusion that a standard was needed?

First, erroneous yield measurements are often recorded in yield data files. Many approaches to improve the quality of yield data rely on access to information or measurement values that are not available in data file formats currently provided by some or all yield measurement systems. Unifying contents, format, and units of sensor measurements, constants and derived values in yield data files would help to simplify and improve the processing (e.g., filtering, conversion, interpolation) involved in creating maps from yield and associated data while improving their quality.

Second, many different visual schemes are used for maps of yield and associated data, and derived maps of revenue or profit. These schemes can at times be self-serving or misleading. It is therefore important to lay out a mapping scheme that simultaneously provides uniformity and flexibility so that map viewers and users can gain a realistic understanding of the data being presented.

How will the industry in general be involved?

The subject matter experts who will develop the standard consist of 12 engineers, including five from agricultural equipment and technology companies. This is an open process for others wishing to participate.

Any roadblocks anticipated?

The biggest apparent obstacle is to make the standard compatible but not redundant with ISO 11783 Parts 10 and 11.

When would you expect this to be complete?

The proposal is that we complete the standard by the end of 2008.

Manufacturers are still seeking more details on the proposed standards, but some provided thoughts on standards in general.

Emily Harringa, communications specialist at John Deere AMS, did not have an official comment on the standards document draft itself, but understands that the scope of the project aims to compliment ISO initiatives. “We are working toward having a member of our staff on the review board, but that is not final as of yet,” says Harringa.

John Pointon, marketing manager at OmniSTAR, added that it is “a welcome step in terms of tightening up and standardizing methods of handling, presenting and measuring the quality of data.”

Mike Gomes, product manager at Topcon Positioning Systems, was also positive about the announcement. “In general, we are a proponent of the common standard,” he said, “and anything that can be established across multiple equipment manufacturers that acts as a standard and provides additional benefits to the users, such as allowing them to use data more flexibly, is a very positive thing.”

The question is, how long would it take to actually see the standard implemented in the market? ISOBUS has been in the works for a decade and continues today. Gomes says that it will ultimately come down to what the end-user demands.

“If consumers become educated in the market place and ask for those capabilities, they have the power to pull these features more quickly through the value chain,” says Gomes. “But manufacturers will only do what their customers ask for, no matter standards are set.

“Interconnectivity is growing in importance because the tide of technology is rising,” he continues “People are more technology savvy now, so we are seeing the adoption curve ramp up and get shorter. Innovation is adopted more readily now. But it will still likely take years for full implementation.”

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