Think Data First: Tiny Aggregations Matter
A heartbeat away from the Kansas-Nebraska border, in the cozy Eastern Plains outpost of Eckley, CO (population: 257), Dr. Chad Godsey, president and owner, Godsey Precision Ag, has been consulting on over 100,000 acres annually – the majority being dryland irrigated corn and wheat – since 2012.
Godsey and his team offer a wide array of precision ag services, from the common (nitrogen management, grid sampling) to the decidedly uncommon (variable rate peanut fungicide!), but one of their specialties is setting up on-farm evaluation trials, and then aggregating that data at the end of the season.
“In the case of corn, if we do some seeding rate trials on a producer’s field we may use that data next year to fine tune seeding rates for that specific producer and his specific management practices,” explains Godsey on a blazing hot mid-June day from out west.
From Godsey’s perspective as a grower-facing consultant, working with individual land-owners to optimize practices and processes as much as possible, the data revolution in agriculture is less Big Data, more “petite data.”
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“A farmer’s perspective on Big Data, or even a consultant like me, is a lot different than the Big Six, because they are all about that Big Data aggregation,” he says. “For me, I could care less, I just want to aggregate that farmer’s data – because I’m just focused on his operation under his unique set of circumstances. It’s just a different level of data aggregation I guess, and at times I think (the value of) smaller aggregations can get a little overlooked.”
Most of Godsey’s work with aggregating data from on-farm trials involves in-field product efficacy evaluations. Basically, a farmer wants to know will this product that I’ve never used before work on my farm. He gives Godsey around 2 acres to run his evaluation trials (irrigation rate trials, according to Godsey, are done on a much larger scale, sometimes taking one-half to two-thirds of a field), and at the end of the year Godsey presents the data and his findings to the farmer. Even being an independent Pioneer seed dealer, Godsey says “we really try to take an independent role on that. If a producer has a specific interest in a product, we’ll work with them to evaluate it, regardless of whose product it is.
“I want to see how a product or a hybrid or variety responds to their management system, because everybody kind of has their own unique management practices to some extent, and I think that’s the beauty of where we’re at in precision ag currently.”
And it almost goes without saying that an additional big part of Godsey’s day-to-day is helping producers capture the cleanest data possible. His team always has to be Thinking Data First.
“There’s that old adage ‘junk in, junk out’, so take the time to make sure the right hybrid is selected, things like that, the small things in the beginning,” Godsey says. “We see more and more mistakes made at planting where stuff is not entered correctly, and you get to the end of the year and you think you’ll remember but you don’t.
“We work with some of the most progressive producers around, but yet we still find errors where a hybrid didn’t get switched – which is easy to do when you’re in a rush – just take the time to get that quality data because if you’re not confident in the data, your conclusions or recommendations or your findings at the end of the year, you’re just not as confident in them.”
For the coming fall harvest season, Godsey recommends having all your Is dotted and your Ts crossed before hoping into the combine and mashing the gas.
“If you know you have trials on the field, having the as-applied (data) or the prescriptions in your combine on the monitor when you’re going across the field – there’s a lot of things that can be learned on the combine, and that’s typically when guys are thinking about it,” he advises. “And having your monitor set up properly and your yield monitor calibrated are the two biggest things, obviously.”
UAVs Still Not Chipping In ROI
Although not officially offered to his clients as a service just yet, Dr. Chad Godsey has gotten himself familiar with drones over the last few years, hoping to experience a kind of come-to-Jesus moment where the technologies’ profitability basically jumps out and slaps him square in the face.
He’s still waiting.
“It’s the same thing (with data aggregation), farmers want solutions, and in the case of imagery, they don’t just want pictures,” Godsey opines. “Imagery is the hot thing now, but adoption at the farm level is pretty low to date, because we have to figure out how to utilize it.”
Selling his customers on the value of implementing aerial imagery into their operations has also proven quite the challenge for Godsey’s team, which is really saying something since these guys spend 365 days a year selling clients on the usefulness and practicality of various ag tech offerings.
“For us if we’ve got to charge two or three dollars an acre to make a little bit of money on imagery, producers aren’t willing to pay that because a lot of times they aren’t going to see anything that is useful.”