As Big Data has become a “big deal” in precision agriculture there are still some big questions to be answered.
The number one question that keeps making headlines in the ag press and even in mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal is – “Who owns the data?” Those in the industry who deal with growers on a day-to-day basis have their talking points down to a tee. “It’s the grower’s data” is the politically correct, knee-jerk response from those who want continued access to your data. The reality of this situation is that even if growers truly “own” their data the question may be a mute point. Why? Because how can you truly own something if you don’t even know where it is? And even if you do know where your precision data is – do you really know how to retrieve it?
A deer in the headlights look is the expression I typically get from growers when I ask them these questions directly. At first their response is that they know exactly where their farm’s fertility data is – it’s down at the coop. Planting and harvest data? Well that’s easy – its on my seed dealer’s computer and I’ve got these cool paper maps to prove it!
The bottom line is that most growers do not have in their possession the original data necessary in order to build a successful long-term precision program. The unfortunate reality is volumes of original data has either been lost in the shuffle of compact flash cards, hard drives that have given up the ghost or USB sticks that get a joyride in the family washing machine. Then if this data does survive such aforementioned perils many times it is given away in exchange for those colorful paper maps or even worse just a bill in the mail.
Today, it may be necessary to process raw precision data multiple times for key people who serve your farm ranging from your fertilizer dealer to your seed dealer to your crop insurance agent and maybe even your banker – and the list goes on. Growers must realize that the processing of data is no longer a one and done proposition.
It is important that growers start asking the RIGHT questions, DEMANDING answers and EXPECTING results. If you do not have direct and easy access to the original precision data from the activities that take place in your fields then frankly you don’t have much. Before you give away the electronic history of your farm – you need to put it in your own precision safe deposit box. Plus, if you’ve paid for precision services like soil sampling, variable-rate application and even scouting then you need to make sure you get an original “electronic” copy of this data.
So what does this precision “safe deposit box” look like? The answer is in the clouds – well your “personal” cloud to be more specific. Putting the grower back in control of his data is why we at Prime Meridian are rolling out this summer an independent, grower-controlled cloud-based service called MyAgCentral. Its a central data repository and personal “precision safe deposit box” that allows grower’s to store and safely share their “original” with the members of their precision ag team.
If possession is truly 9/10ths of the law then truly independent “cloud” services like MyAgCentral are one of the few ways to realistically put growers back in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling “their” data. Do you know where your data is? That’s the question you should be asking.