Griffin: Data Has No Value

Terry Griffin, InfoAg 2013

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Aggregated, or open, data is one of the many key underlying themes at InfoAg 2013, and Dr. Terry Griffin, vice president, Cresco Ag, made a particularly strong case for more data sharing among the precision ag community during his presentation.

“Data alone has no value, and while I say that looking for reactions, it is still a true statement,” Griffin told attendees. “And most people would respond ‘Well, data has a lot of value’, and to them I say if the data is not being converted into information, it is useless.”

Further illustrating his view that more data sharing in precision ag is the answer, Griffin made an analogy to Alexander Graham Bell.

“When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, how useful was it really,” he asked. “I mean, he couldn’t call anybody at the time because he had the only telephone in existence. The telephone became valuable when you could use it to communicate with others. It’s the same thing with data in precision ag: once more and more early adopters participate in data aggregation, the more value it’s going to return to those users.”

Griffin presented several reasons for industry stakeholders to aggregate, among them:

  • It’s Complicated: Precision Ag, and in a larger sense agriculture in general, is a “very large and very, very complicated puzzle – and individuals alone only view a very small piece of that puzzle at a given time,” Griffin said. “Yet here we are trying to put this puzzle together – but we only have one piece – that is probably the number one reason people should aggregate their data with others: to get a better picture of the overall puzzle.”
  • An Equalizer: Aggregated or shared data can help level the playing field among competitors as far as business intelligence is concerned.
  • The Logic Behind Participation: Farm level/field data has limited value when kept isolated, and the greatest value of data to the individual farmer is obtained by converting data into info only when the data is pooled and analyzed (aggregated) alongside other’s data.

Of course, historically farmers and competing ag retail outfits have made quite clear their distrust of sharing data with peers, so how does one attempt to convince them otherwise?

“The proof is going to be in the pudding,” admitted Griffin. “There’s just some trust that’s going to have to be built before these farmers begin to feel comfortable sharing their data, and it’s going to take a little bit of time to prove that.”

Griffin concluded by issuing a call to arms of sorts to the industry. “I came here as a data scientist to speak, and I’d like to see the industry as a whole push forward and progress data aggregation as one, and we’re all going to benefit. As far as the ag retailer’s role, it’s no different from any other issue in the industry: when they participate the whole agricultural sector benefits.”

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