Cotton And Precision Ag: Playing MoneyBoll

Much like baseball, farming has always been illuminated by data. Take, for example, Babe Ruth. Would we have realized how special he was if we hadn’t kept meticulous records of the countless hitters who chased his records for decades, but fell short?

Growers have long known the same to be true for cotton production. Keeping track of on-farm variables — plant date, rain amounts, variety type, fertilizer applications — is the only way to impact success from an informed perspective. For decades, growers kept up with these data points in scribbled notes on coffee-stained paper, filed away in dusty old manila folders. But in an era when the World Wide Web is finally expanding into rural America, farm data is hitting its stride.

There’s no denying that data is the next big wave in precision agriculture. From the tradeshow to the turn row, it’s on the mind of suppliers and growers alike.

Industry giants such as John Deere have invested heavily in software that makes data available to growers in larger, more easily consumable quantities. And the quantities, or sample sizes, matter — a lot. After all, when compared with just one teammate, Babe Ruth was only the better of the two. But when compared with a larger data set — every other batter in the history of the game — he becomes one of the best of all time. Similarly, if growers are able to compare their own on-farm experiences with those of thousands of others, they’d have a much clearer understanding of the forces at work on their own operations.

But as Deere and others have discovered, compiling data — helpful statistics like yield patterns as they relate to rain amounts, variety types and fertilizer applications — is entirely dependent on having a network of growers who are willing to share their own findings. Data starts on individual farms with singular growers. Asking them to divulge those data points has, for whatever the reason, been a tall task.

“I don’t see how (data collection and sharing) works if the farmers don’t control it,” says Billy Tiller, a Lubbock, TX, cotton farmer, and Founder of Grower Information Services Cooperative (GISC). As a producer, Tiller says he understands growers’ hesitancy to share their own findings. “I think farmers would balk, if we begin to find out that someone had stabbed us in the back and used our data sets and sold it to someone else in the industry. What if a company started billing their products off of our data, and suddenly they’re charging us five more dollars per acre to sell us the same product? That’s something that would really bother me.”

But Tiller has long understood the immense value in data-sourcing and sharing between farmers. That’s why he founded GISC, which he describes as something of a grassroots effort to benefit growers across the nation.

Grower First

“I’m a cotton grower,” Tiller says, by way of introduction. “When I got started with this, look, I wasn’t going to build a data co-op. When I got started back in 2009, I was just talking to my crop insurance agent about how to move data more efficiently.”

The data he was eyeing back then wasn’t terribly complex.

“For instance, I just wanted to look at cotton production off the farm. The way I got it back then and actually the way I still get it today, I go over to the cotton gin and they print it off, I pull it, and I take it over to the crop insurance place and they re-key all the data. I said ‘This is crazy. We live in a world where we ought to be able to just pop this data out and move it over there without this much effort.’”

Tiller was also becoming more interested in incorporating data into his own farming decisions. Like many growers, he was keen on finding the best seed variety for his own farm, and as he says, “I needed good data to do that, but I couldn’t find a way to integrate a lot of the things I was coming across. I was building data sets, and I was just fed up.”

In 2010, Tiller and his West Texas counterparts had a massive crop, and he decided it was time to create the tools he needed to be able to create larger data sets. In the days before “the cloud” revolutionized storage, he says, he was eyeing servers that could host data for all who wanted to participate. The key to encouraging other farmers to participate, he thought, was privacy. He had to ensure his fellow growers that they would control who accessed their data.

Following His Instincts

His instincts were correct. Growers were attracted to his idea in droves. Today GISC has roughly 1,300 members across multiple crops in 37 states. The effort grew so quickly that Tiller realized he had to bring in someone who could manage the challenges of such a bustling startup. Enter Jason Ward, who came to GISC as Executive Director after a stint with another successful cotton cooperative — Staplcotn.

“We’ve focused on ‘What is the minimal thing we can build that optimizes the most value for that grower,’” Ward says. “We’ve come and said, ‘Let’s unite growers around data rights, around governance of that data.’  We’ve put the co-op together in order to own that data, to give governance of that data over to this organization. We are a true cooperative. When that data comes in, those growers are protected by other growers in the industry.”

GISC charges no membership fee, currently. Tiller and Ward stress that this venture is there to serve its members.

“We should have the most complete data set in the market, because only growers have all these points of interest — things like the date it was planted, the seed variety, the chemicals applied,” Ward says.

“We’re trying to create a very end-to-end complete view for the grower. How can you integrate that together? If we accomplish that, it will be the most valuable data set on the planet.”

Leave a Reply

Grower Services & Solutions Stories
Grower Services & SolutionsDeere-Granular Collaboration Produces New Profit Maps Tool
September 14, 2018
The newest development from the ongoing John Deere-Granular product development and marketing collaboration is Profit Maps, now available to farmers Read More
AmericasIntegrity Ag Group: People Over Precision
July 30, 2018
It’s not every day that this reporter walks into the office of a precision ag dealer, sits across from the Read More
Data ManagementInfoAg News: Farmobile Launches DataEngine, Streamlines DataStore Buyer Process
July 17, 2018
Busy times these days out in Leawood, KS, for ag data startup Farmobile, as they continue to – pardon the Read More
Agrible
Grower Services & SolutionsNutrien Drops $63 Million to Acquire Agrible
July 16, 2018
Nutrien announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Agrible for total consideration of $63 million, Read More
Trending Articles
Soil-Hand
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower-Retailer
Imagery/SensingAgtech: 10 Things I Hate About You!
September 4, 2018
Before you get bent out of shape from the title, remember if you’ve read my articles before you know I Read More
Kansas State University
Industry NewsKansas State University, Topcon Form Precision Ag Research Partnership
August 30, 2018
Kansas State University and Topcon Agriculture are collaborating to develop tools and systems to advance precision agriculture and support farmers. Read More
Blockchain building block graphic
Specialty CropsIs Blockchain the Future of Food Safety?
August 24, 2018
When the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized in 1982, permitting the worldwide proliferation of interconnected networks and eventually the Read More
WinField’s Joel Wipperfurth On Empowering Data-Driven Decisions
InfoAg ConferenceOne on One with Joel Wipperfurth, Winfield United
August 15, 2018
Winfield United's Joel Wipperfurth discusses ag technology trends and topics during last month’s InfoAg Conference. Read More
Geosys
Industry NewsUrtheCast to Acquire Geosys from Land O’Lakes in $20 Million Deal
August 15, 2018
UrtheCast Corp. and Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced they have entered a binding term sheet for the purchase of Geosys Read More
Latest News
Google-Earth-Map-featured-image
Data ManagementRainfall Revisited: Accurate Observations and Beyond
September 18, 2018
As a provider of weather analysis and forecast services to the agricultural industry, one of the most common questions I Read More
PenelopeNagel
Business ManagementWhy Is Funding a Challenge for Women-Led Agtech Compani…
September 17, 2018
When it comes to women-led agtech companies the funding discussion never seems to cease. In June after the The New Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Decision Support SoftwareWhy Are 570 Million Farmers Not Yet Using Agricultural …
September 17, 2018
Until recently, using agricultural apps and software was a rare practice among growers. This is now changing. The mass adoption Read More
Soil-Hand
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsDeere-Granular Collaboration Produces New Profit Maps T…
September 14, 2018
The newest development from the ongoing John Deere-Granular product development and marketing collaboration is Profit Maps, now available to farmers Read More
Wingtra
DronesOpinion: Combining Two Pluses with the WingtraOne UAV
September 13, 2018
For the every-day consumer interested in UAVs, there is an ocean of products from which to choose. This includes the Read More
Farmer-tablet
AsiaShould Agri-Input Manufacturers Outsource E-Commerce to…
September 12, 2018
Editor’s note: Venky Ramachandran is a contributing writer for PrecisionAg.com’s sister site, AgriBusinessGlobal.com. This article was originally published on LinkedIn. Now, Read More
ICON-Link-Licensing_featured-image
Industry NewsValley Irrigation Adds Remote Irrigation Management Opt…
September 11, 2018
Valley Irrigation, an industry leader in smart irrigation solutions, has announced enhancements to its remote management technologies. Multi-Year Licensing In Read More
Reflex-Connect-Agri-Inject-featured-image
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable Rate Fertigation System Expands with Mobile Co…
September 10, 2018
Building on the success of its Reflex Variable Rate Fertigation system, Agri-Inject has taken fluid injection to the next level Read More
Industry NewsTeralytic Earns Ag Data Transparent Certification
September 10, 2018
Soil analytics company Teralytic has completed the Ag Data Transparent certification, affirming that their data use is private, secure, and Read More
Business ManagementTop 20 Two-Year Colleges for Precision Agriculture
September 10, 2018
Earlier this year, I compiled a list of the 25 best colleges for precision agriculture. It was quite the process. Read More
Industry NewsRaven, Topcon Announce Slingshot API Agreement
September 6, 2018
Raven Industries and Topcon Agriculture announced today a licensing agreement for Topcon Agriculture’s use of the Slingshot Application Programming Interface Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementThe Power of Predictive Analytics in Agriculture
September 5, 2018
Years ago if we would have been told computers, data, and technology would be scattered around every farm there may Read More
DronessenseFly Launches eBee X Drone, Breaks Through 1,000 ac…
September 5, 2018
senseFly today reportedly sets a new standard in mapping tools with the launch of the eBee X. Launched with the Read More
AmericasOn The Scene: 2018 Farm Progress Show Wrap Up
September 5, 2018
Former Monsanto President (now Bayer CropScience Chief Operating Office) Brett Begemann’s opening salvo during his first appearance at a Farm Read More
EventsAg Experts Discuss Big Data Challenges in Agriculture
September 5, 2018
Agricultural experts at a Houston conference praised the advancements in unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors, and data-collecting technology used in precision Read More
Pest-Monitoring-Map
AmericasStrider, Syngenta and Trends in Digital Agriculture
September 5, 2018
I recently attended Strider Day in São Paulo, an event hosted by Brazilian agtech company Strider. The event offered two Read More
Agworld
Industry NewsAgworld Strengthens Team with Key Appointments
September 5, 2018
Agworld, a global leader in farm management software and collaborative data solutions, has announced the appointment of Mike Betts as Read More