PERSPECTIVE I’ve used this online forum on a few occasions to tweak the precision agriculture industry for not being able to conquer the challenge of compatibility and interoperability. While understanding there are many reasons for not meeting the promise of seamless connectivity, I have nonetheless expressed the dissatisfaction I hear about on a pretty regular basis from farmers, retailers and precision consultants I encounter through the year.
The last time I did, I also got a few calls from representatives of AgGateway, who assured me that progress was being made – unprecedented progress – and that more details were in the offing. “Hey, I’m ready and willing to be proven wrong,” I said, or something like that. “Show me, and I will come back and write about it.”
So, I got a call from the folks at AgGateway today. And, while it’s not a finished product, the ADAPT Toolkit shows remarkable progress by a dedicated group of folks, and as much promise as we’ve ever seen as far as getting to that magical place where everything talks to everything else.
ADAPT, which stands for Agricultural Data Application Programming Toolkit, is designed to “eliminate the major pain points to broad use of precision agriculture data by easily enabling interoperability between different software and hardware applications,” according to AgGateway. It is an open source project that allows precision ag software providers globally to use the software and to contribute to its continued development, all with the goal of ensuring broad adoption.
Once adopted, ADAPT will allow the user to move precision ag data between different software systems easily and simply. For example, ADAPT will enable farm information management applications to easily use precision ag data collected on vehicle displays.
ADAPT was spearheaded by 20 agriculture companies with various amounts of skin in the precision game. The ADAPT Toolkit will, according to folks with a lot on the line and a big stake in creating interoperability, allow it all to work.
Chip Donahue, a veteran of the precision battlefront who serves as John Deere’s Manager of Business Segment Strategy in its Intelligent Solutions Group, says that ADAPT is for real. He asserts as an example that any software that implements ADAPT can easily convert file formats without any more input from the user. “All a user needs to know is what kind of display the prescriptions are being sent to, just like you might do with a digital photo that comes into your computer as a jpeg and can be converted to a bitmap.”
Therein lies the rub. Software manufacturers must pave the final mile, creating the connective “tissue” between their own products and ADAPT. The challenge of paving that last mile will vary depending on the level of “proprietary-ness” of a company’s given system, and the format in which is was developed.
Simultaneously, ADAPT participants Topcon and AGCO will be creating an ADAPT-ISO plug-in. The cooperation between two standards organizations is certainly additional good news.
“This plug-in will greatly simplify the task of supporting the ISO standards for both farm management software and terminal companies,” said Topcon’s Dr. Joe Tevis, a standards development stalwart who’s been very active in AgGateway precision ag initiatives. “While Topcon and AGCO have provided the initial coding, it is officially an open source project and we welcome all interested companies to contribute to this effort.”
Companies are definitely excited about it.
“This is the year we will finally have a solution to interoperability, which has been a formidable hurdle to the use of precision ag technologies,” asserts ADAPT Committee Chairman Mark Stelford, General Manager of Premier Crop Systems. “ADAPT represents a monumental amount of work over several years, by a lot of people. Now we’re alerting software companies that it’s time for them to develop the ‘plug-in’ technology on their ends to facilitate broad industry adoption.”
Indeed. I talked with Jeremy Wilson, who’s been active in this and other AgGateway standards projects, for a bit more context. As software companies begin writing programs to connect to ADAPT, more will be learned, and ADAPT will be tweaked to accommodate programs as needed. “It’s not a totally finished product, but it’s really solid, and shows incredible progress,” says Wilson. “In golf terms, we’ve gotten them to the course, put a ball on the tee and handed them the club. It’s time to get the game going.”
Companies currently participating in the ADAPT Oversight Committee include Ag Connections, Ag Leader Technology, AGCO Corp, Agrian, CNH Industrial, Central Valley Ag Coop, CLAAS, Independent Data Management, John Deere, Land ‘O Lakes, Inc., Monsanto, Premier Crop Systems, ProAg Management, Raven Industries, Software Solutions Integrated, SST Software, Syngenta, Topcon Precision Agriculture, Trimble Navigation and ZedX.
Additional companies involved with ADAPT through their work in AgGateway’s SPADE Project include AgIntegrated, BASF, Bayer CropScience, Texas A&M, Crop IMS, Digi-Star, DTN, F4F Agriculture, Farmobile, GROWMARK, Heartland Co-op, Insero, MapShots, OAGi, Praxidyn, Vita Plus, XS Inc, and Wysocki.
With the broad coalition behind it and the hard work put in by all, this does indeed feel like real progress. Here’s hoping the precision industry can use ADAPT to truly move forward.