Grower Perspective: 6 Takeaways From The PrecisionAg Innovation Series

Data On The Farm: Successes, Pain Points And Opportunities panel, including Steve Pitstick (center, second from left) and moderator Lisa Prassack (far right).
The Data On The Farm: Successes, Pain Points And Opportunities panel, including Steve Pitstick (center, second from left) and moderator Lisa Prassack (far right).

On Tuesday, January 26, 2016, I joined the over 235 strong for learning, participating and networking at the 2nd PrecisionAg Innovation Series event “Finding What Works: Data Integration from the Ground Up” in St. Louis, MO.

Co-chairs of the event Paul Schrimpf, Executive Editor of PrecisionAg / CropLife Magazines, and Lisa Prassack, President of Prassack Advisors, guided us growers, together with industry leaders and emerging agriculture technology players, through a high-quality, jam-packed day to hear speakers and panels on how to create solutions that work on the farm.

In attendance were some of the most innovative growers and agronomists in corn, soybean and wheat farming and I was proud to be included among this group. These pragmatists have fueled forward momentum in agriculture by advising on technology that works – they have provided their advisory services include: 640 Labs, Farmer Business Network, FieldView, HydroBio, Precision Planting, Sage Insights and companies bar coding seeds and chemicals in the grower workflow.

  1. Each Grower Shared their Perspective on their Experience Using Data on the Farm

Great points that were appreciated and honestly shared and discussed were:

  • Farmers are looking for a higher level of detail in all areas of data collection.
  • Farmers desire incorporation of consumer devices because they become familiar with them in the off-season.
  • Adoption of precision technology is slow because of lack of peer pressure to implement.
  • ROI reasons to collect data have been lacking (show us why we should).
  • The array of solutions is overwhelming to producers.
  • They need better definition and use purpose

2. Data Integrators Offerings Revealed

The agronomists and precision agriculture consultants were representative of the best of the grower “trusted advisors”. Most farmer advisors are the people selling them inputs, thus not a disinterested third party. As a result growers are not getting introduced to, nor access to the best possible solutions for their farms. We need more field expertise and independence to truly solve the grower’s demands for return on investment from solutions on the path to precision.

3. Standards on the Threshold – Spades Project

After years of meetings, there appears to be a set of standards on the very near horizon. Jeremy Wilson, co-chair of the precision agriculture council of the standards body Ag Gateway, presented breakthroughs in the community that are demonstrating renewed commitment, focus and a sense of urgency to solve the demands for consistent standards and compliance in data management.

4. Internet of Things

Chris Rezendes of Inex Advisors shared examples of doing the work of the “Internet of Things” in the field. We appreciated his IoT domain knowledge and focus on driving adoption and outcomes. His graphic of the four corners region showed a lack of water – and not surprisingly – also a lack of sensors. This graphic relates to crop production many times as without enough information or the right information – the “wrong dogs” are chased.

5. Sustainability

Growers are the original stewards of the land. The Environmental Defense Fund with consumer facing brands like WalMart and General Mills are asking us for more traceability and reporting than we are able to deliver with today’s data and software systems. As mentioned before, we are looking for greater detail in data collection and hope to see this combined with integration and easier data presentation that will be more the norm than today’s lack of availability or early stage efforts.

6. Farmer Data Coops

Developing ways to store, catalogue, and easily analyze the ever-growing mountain of ag data harvested every day are a major, yet essential, project to tackle for all growers with the support of their trusted advisors – and what is now emerging – farmer data co-operatives.

Jeff Kirwan, a grower in Illinois, discussed the value of a small (20) users group data repository, in this case the information has to be almost perfect going in due to the small amount and the collaboration of the growers to drive toward better data collection, benchmarking and use. Jason Ward, from GISC, a farmer co-operative with over 8,000 grower members discussed the benefits of a neutral “white puffy” cloud to hold farmers data.

Is the fear of data misuse by the “evil dark clouds” easily overcome by the benefits of a large set of data that potentially has value to the farmer provider almost immediately? And is there an opportunity to create sub data sets within these larger groups to add more focused value?

What’s Next?

We look forward to continued progress and the opportunity to learn what other industries outside of agriculture are doing to solve these complex problems. Our particular interest is with the use leading technology in sensors, connectivity and analysis of the right data to enable informed decisions to do a job well on the farm. See you at the 3rd PrecisionAg Innovation Series!

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