From Storing to Visualizing: Using Data to Drive Agribusiness Forward
Irrespective of which agricultural website, magazine, or newspaper you read at the moment, it is clear that there is a heavy focus on data in our industry. Collecting and storing data is pretty straightforward for most but, depending on how it gets stored, using it seems not as easy. The questions I receive are on the increase from growers, agronomists, and financial service providers about how they can actually start using their farm data to their own advantage. Instead of just collecting and storing their farm data, people want to start using it to improve their farm’s financial performance.
When we talk about ag data, it is often geospatial data that steals the limelight. And indeed, when you have some soil test data, yield data and perhaps some terrain data available, it can be pretty self-explanatory to make use of it and let it help you in creating a variable rate script for some of your inputs, for example. There is a lot more ag data than just geospatial, however, and using other farm data is not as plain for many. For those who are able to visualize this type of data, instead of just having it sit in a spreadsheet or in fragmented databases, the rewards can be big.
I recently spoke to one of our clients, Hunter Current of Alturas Ranches in Northern California, who has been working on visualizing his farm data for a few years now. He told us: “When we can truly visualize data, the information sparks inquisitiveness, rekindles the memory, and naturally creates discussion among my crew. When you can see a field that’s dark green and the yield per acre is high, you visually imprint that on your mind to say yes – that’s where our stronger soils are, that’s where we get a better irrigation, or that’s where we did a fertilizer study, for example. Having this visible really makes us more aware of how we are performing and where we might have to adjust.”
Big Ag companies have long figured out how they can use growers’ data to their own advantage, hence they all work hard to collect grower data through their own digital ag subsidiaries, but growers are only just now able to access the tools to use this data to their own advantage. It is for this reason that independent platforms like Agworld, that do not sell or use farm data but merely enable growers and their advisors to get the most out of it, are rapidly becoming more popular.
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Where geospatial data is excellent for improving field performance and to lessen the effects of in-field variability, actual farm records such as financial, inputs, and operations data are needed for multi-year farm performance analyses and to calculate potential future scenarios on the farm. Being able to improve field performance yields obvious results such as increased yield or decreased costs. But with an increased risk of droughts, for example, as outlined by a recent study, combined with an estimated cost in the U.S. of $9.5 billion according to government statistics, growers will need better analysis tools to help them be well-prepared. And it’s not only extreme environmental events but also commodity price fluctuations and other macroeconomic factors that growers can prepare better for if they are able to plan their season based on accurate financial performance indicators from past years.
It is in this field that I see a large role for independent advisors, as well as ag retailers and co-ops. Once the fields are optimized and geospatial data has been used to the extent possible on that specific farm, it is time to look at the financial performance of the farm as a whole. By going beyond the regular services provided, and help growers to collect, store, and analyse their critical whole-farm data, service providers can help their clients survive and thrive in challenging circumstances, whatever that may be. Remember: big ag companies already use growers’ data to survive and thrive, there is no reason why growers shouldn’t aim to do the same thing with their own data!
If you are interested in getting more results out of your farm data or helping your grower clients get more out of their farm data, please feel free to reach out.