Darker Reflections on The State of Data (Perspective)

300 plus attendees listen to Alabama farmer Larkin Martin at the PrecisionAg Innovation Series event on August 31, 2015.
300 plus attendees listen to Alabama farmer Larkin Martin at the PrecisionAg Innovation Series event on August 31, 2015.

I could see my name being placed on the “do not call that guy again” list as I was ranting.

It was the end of the day on Tuesday this week, and one of my very good contacts from a PR/Marketing firm gave me a call, looking for some perspective on precision ag — and in particular, what’s going on with data.

Well, the subject of data had been the center of my existence for about a month, up to the recent conference on Data Platforms we hosted in Champaign on August 31. It was successful, but my nerves are still a little raw from the whole experience. We got a lot of positive comments, but interspersed were some critiques as well. “Not enough tough questions!” decried one panelist about the sessions. “Too many people on stage!” said another. “Solutions were not offered!”

So, the meeting came out pretty much where I thought it would. Yes, it offered education and established where we are and where things are likely to be headed in the future. But to me, the big goal was getting these 20-plus panelists and 300 attendees in the room to network and share ideas, and maybe begin to cooperate at a greater level.

But it’s clear we are still a pretty long way from resolving things. I was mulling that over when my PR friend called, so I obliged him .. probably too much. While I won’t be able to reproduce the conversation precisely, this is how it went down.

Me: Where is data going? Honestly I have no idea. After sitting through that meeting, I feel like consensus and collaboration are a long way off.

Quickly, I went into a diatribe of my beefs with the way things appear to me right now:

  • I’ve said the 80-20 rule applies to precision ag in terms of non-adopters vs. adopters, but when it comes to data, on an acreage basis, I think at best it’s 90-10. The data component is further separating the haves and have nots. I mean, you really need to WANT to collect and manage data and use it on your farm. It’s really, really hard.
  • I share with him my personal work analogy: If I had to work as hard to get my computer up and running as the farmer is required to work to maintain a legit data platform, I’d be using a typewriter. I’m a writer, not a programmer. Farmers want to farm.
  • Compatibility across platforms is a constant heartache. Sure partners are working together, but it’s on a company by company, partner by partner basis. What if every phone app you downloaded had to be designed to work with a specific phone manufacturer? Would you have any apps? Would you have any app makers? How useful would your phone be? There needs to be an underlying consistency, or we’re all chasing windmills. WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN?!

So now my PR friend is getting nervous. He asks me a question, but I don’t really hear it … I moved on to what could move the needle:

  • Maybe we’ll get some sort of market disruption that forces us to become more open and compatible. Maybe it’s government regulation or reporting requirements. Maybe food processors start demanding to know more about what we grow, or demand specific crop regimens that are verified through data. Perhaps Walmart walks in and blows everything out of the water. Frankly, while I believe this is a real possibility, I am tired of hearing myself say it. I’ll tell you one thing, I am pretty sure that those inside of agriculture don’t have the stomach to cause a big disruption. But I am absolutely ready to be proven wrong.

My PR friend thanked me for sharing my thoughts, and it was one of the few times a PR person was anxious to get me off the phone. He said, “I’m starting to get more involved in the precision side, so I’m trying to get a handle on what’s happening.” Sorry to be a Debby Downer, my friend … we all have our dark days!

Back more than a decade ago when consolidation was rampant in retail, an old timer told me, “don’t sweat the bad times. Good operations in agriculture live for the troughs that wipe out the pretenders and the also rans, and pay us back for all the hard work we’ve done to build a strong and sustainable business.”

So much of the development in data platforms has come at a point of big growth in ag, and as we face a downturn, maybe we’ll see a washing out of companies, and more compatibility and connectivity.

There absolutely are some amazing tools out there. The opportunity to improve efficiency and agronomic practices is remarkable. It’s just too hard right now.

Lisa Prassack, who co-chaired the conference with us, had a slide in her deck that really rung true: Customers Buy Outcomes. Outcomes are pretty easy to identify for farmers: higher yields, more efficiency. Everything in between is noise. Ag needs to reduce the noise and simplify the data solutions for growers.

I wished my caller well and hung up, hoping I did not scare him away. The truth is, there’s a lot of OPPORTUNITY out there as evidenced by how many players are swimming in the pool. But getting it right will require, in my mind, fewer players and more cooperation.

For another perspective on the conference, check out conference attendee and Lawyer Todd Janzen’s blog. Thanks for coming and for the kind comments about the conference, Todd … and I agree with everything he says.

One final note: The one moment that generated spontaneous applause was when panelist Doug Hackney, who worked extensively on the healthcare industry’s data challenges, said the following:

“80% of the value of data comes from integration.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Darker Reflections on The State of Data (Perspective)

  1. Paul – Great write up and could not agree more with everything you wrote. You were one of the first people I ever spoke to when we started our project and the conference was a real eye opener to me as well. We are so so so far away from what leaders and visionaries envision for the possibility for agtech. Keep up your great work and thanks for keeping it real!

  2. Ag is unlike any other industry in the world. That’s the rub. All these businessmen hearing about billions in ag, are showing up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed looking to make a deal. Good luck selling as much as a new tractor this year – and farmers really use those as opposed to some ERP fancy doohicky program with satellite imagery, soil moisture sensing, etc available. With no clear ROI who cares!

Data Management Stories
Data ManagementProspera Selected for Top 100 Artificial Intelligence Rankings
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
Corn Field
Data ManagementWaypoint Analytical, Highland Precision Ag Announce Strategic Alliance
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
Wade Barnes Farmers Edge using FarmCommand
Data ManagementFarmers Edge Makes Precision Ag Simple
January 3, 2017
Jon Labine of Argyle, MN, is a regional sales representative for Farmers Edge Inc., one of the latest entries in Read More
Data ManagementAg Leader Invites Connectivity To AgFiniti Via API
December 13, 2016
Ag Leader Technology took a big step forward toward broader software connectivity. It recently announced the availability of an API for 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
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 Head of North American Precision Farm…
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
Wade Barnes Farmers Edge using FarmCommand
Data ManagementFarmers Edge Makes Precision Ag Simple
January 3, 2017
Jon Labine of Argyle, MN, is a regional sales representative for Farmers Edge Inc., one of the latest entries in Read More
DV Wing Drone Volt
DronesDV WING: A Drone Dedicated To Precision Agriculture
January 3, 2017
DRONE VOLT is launching its new fixed-wing unit, a light and compact UAV dedicated to precision agriculture and construction work, Read More
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
Topcon X30 Console in cab
Business ManagementA New Precision Vision
December 29, 2016
It’s been an incredible year for the team here at Preci­sionAg Media. We have more than two decades in as Read More
EventsAgenda Is Taking Shape For February Innovation Series C…
December 29, 2016
Precision ag technology integrators — those businesses providing agronomy services and technology consulting to farmers — can take advantage of a full Read More