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
Soil testing
Data ManagementOpinion: Soil Testing Needs Sensors To Get More Accurate
February 17, 2017
We are entering a very exciting time in agriculture. With so many great software platforms and data collection tools we Read More
Data ManagementJANZEN LAW BLOG: Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms at Center of America’s First Ag Data Case
February 14, 2017
A number of poultry growers have filed suit against Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, and other poultry integrators alleging that growers’ Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Data ManagementField to Market Announces New Metrics Platform Integrations
February 9, 2017
Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture today announced a comprehensive integration between the sustainability metrics and algorithms of Read More
Data ManagementNew Partnership Between AgIntegrated, CDMS, SeediQ Will Create Single Source Reference Data API
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
Trending Articles
Connected Farm Scout Trimble Agriculture - featured image
Decision Support Software17 Field Scouting Apps For Precision Agriculture
February 6, 2017
There are dozens of easy-to-use mobile apps that are ideal for every day field scouting tasks. From record keeping and Read More
John Deere Dealership
Business ManagementAg Retailer, Equipment Dealer Improve Service By Working Together
January 27, 2017
Some believe that in many aspects of life, timing is everything. Among those believers, please count Randy Bartholomew, Integrated Solutions Read More
Innovation SeriesPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 25, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say 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
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
Latest News
Sentera drone
DronesPrecision Ag Professionals Will Find Advice, Applicatio…
February 22, 2017
The upcoming ASCEND Conference & Expo will deliver practical information about using drones to improve processes in precision agriculture. ASCEND Read More
Case IH - AFS AccuStar and UAV Offering - Magnum MX210 AccuStar Receiver
DronesCase IH Adds New GPS Solution, UAV Package To AFS Offer…
February 21, 2017
Driven by the growing demand for efficient data management, the latest Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) solutions from Case IH help Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Systems ManagementBayer Enters Farm Recommendations Arena With Yara Colla…
February 20, 2017
Crop protection and ag biotech giant Bayer and fertilizer producer Yara International ASA have entered into a software collaboration and Read More
Hort TechGrowingProduce.com: Smart Vineyards Set to Revolutioniz…
February 17, 2017
Phil Asmundson is by no means a veteran viticulturist, but a half-dozen years ago, after watching his wife and business Read More
Soil testing
Data ManagementOpinion: Soil Testing Needs Sensors To Get More Accurat…
February 17, 2017
We are entering a very exciting time in agriculture. With so many great software platforms and data collection tools we Read More
Australian Harvest
Decision Support SoftwareGarden City Co-op Added as MZB Regional Mapping Center;…
February 17, 2017
Garden City Co-op (GCC), through a retailer agreement, has been using MZB Technologies as their precision ag platform for a Read More
DronesLand O’Lakes Drone Challenge Crowdsourcing Compet…
February 17, 2017
Land O’Lakes, Inc. is calling on innovators from the tech industry to enter the Land O’Lakes Prize: Drone Challenge, a Read More
DronesDrone Startup Hits VC Jackpot: Skyward Acquired by Veri…
February 16, 2017
Building on its strategy to drive innovation and adoption for IoT services in high-growth markets, Verizon today announced that it Read More
GuidanceCase IH Launches AccuTurn Automated Headland-Turning Te…
February 15, 2017
New AccuTurn automated headland-turning technology from Case IH takes the guesswork out of turning on headlands, which gives you improved Read More
ProfessionalsDeere Details New Connect Mobile App, C850 Air Cart
February 15, 2017
To help growers monitor, adjust and learn from the performance of their planter or sprayer while it moves through the Read More
drones, UAVs, DJI, Aerial Imagery
DronesNDVI Imagery Under $5K? Sentera Outfitting DJI Phantom …
February 15, 2017
Sentera today announced its ability to convert a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone into a precision scouting tool that collects Read More
Wheat sunrise
Systems ManagementNew Holland Announces New Product Launches
February 15, 2017
New Holland Agriculture expands its product offering with the introduction of three Precision Land Management technologies, PLM Drone Data Management, Read More
Data ManagementJANZEN LAW BLOG: Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms at Center of…
February 14, 2017
A number of poultry growers have filed suit against Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, and other poultry integrators alleging that growers’ Read More
Southern States grower in cab
Innovation SeriesPrecision Agriculture: A Place For Everyone At The Tabl…
February 13, 2017
Over the last 30 days, I’ve been immersed in all things precision agriculture. If you received your personal copy of Read More
Farmer and computer
ProfessionalsPassionate Precision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join…
February 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: PrecisionAg.com is looking for people to join our team and submit original content to our website about Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Sensors/IoTIoT Will Transform The Agriculture Supply Chain –…
February 10, 2017
Supply chain visibility and efficiency is a big part of running a profitable agricultural business. There are a variety of Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Data ManagementField to Market Announces New Metrics Platform Integrat…
February 9, 2017
Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture today announced a comprehensive integration between the sustainability metrics and algorithms of Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
Tools & Smart EquipmentAGCO Introduces High Speed White 9800VE Series Planters
February 8, 2017
AGCO Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, is bringing to market White Planters™ 9800VE Series planters equipped Read More