As we hear talk of a new millennium and the changes the world must confront, agriculture is looking at one of the broadest revolutions the industry has ever experienced. Every segment of the agricultural industry will be touched by these new technologies and innovations. It is predicted that by the year 2005 our knowledge will double every 163 days. How do we use this to our advantage?
There are going to be many paradigms questioned and new rules written. There are going to be people who consider this disruptive technology and others embracing the change with open arms. The skeptics will fade as the technology proves itself. The early innovators, the visionaries, again will be ahead of the learning curve and will benefit from all the advencements. This technology is one that we can and must adopt and develop.
Biotechnology, GPS, GIS, information databases, spatial correlation analysis, remote sensing data, real time sensing technology, government regulations and others not even envisioned are all part of the mix with which we must deal.
As you begin to develop your farm data base, you need to have a plan of what to do with this data. The question you have to ask every time you add new software or hardware is, how will this improvement add to the knowledge that I need for my farm? Data is not knowledge. It is how this data is related to other data that creates knowledge.
Pretty yield maps are not knowledge. If all you are going to do is produce pretty maps you have missed the greatest of this technology. You have also wasted a lot of money.
Many software companies have misled some producers with these pretty maps. Some companies do not have a clue or the resources to develop “correlation anaylsis software,” or software that helps determine how two or more variables may relate to a specific crop production outcome.
When they show you a map, so what? Where is the correlation analysis? If you get a blank stare, walk away. To my knowldege, Agris, Rockwell, and Soilteq — I’m sure there are more — are seriously working in this area. These are the companies that have the resources to update the software as our analysis needs change.
Things are changing fast and the leaders of today may not be players in the future. If you are trying to get by cheaply, you may be cheating yourself in the long run. This software purchase will be one of the most important decisions you will make. Take time, and be critical of promises made by these companies. Flexibility is the key, we are not sure where this is going. Don’t get locked into a system that is not adaptable.
Today we are in the formative stage, with every company trying to find its place in the market — the proprietary niche that it feels it rightly deserves. Standardization and open architecture will develop and be the standard as in other industries.
Despite our struggles as producers to guide and mold this information technology to suit our needs, developers have not gotten the message yet. They will. Continue to push for elements that fit our needs not their convenience.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Premiere Issue 1997 of PrecisionAg Illustrated.