Category Archives: Data Sharing

Whose Data? Growers Are Asking the Wrong Question

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?

datastoragepadlockA 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.

What Does Netflix and Drone Data Have In Common?

Drones are the current hot commodity in the precision agriculture world. In fact, many growers and ag professionals are acting more like a kid on the night before Christmas – they can’t wait to get their hands on one.

But what happens the day after Christmas? Will the precision ag crowd still be as attached to this technology or will it become just another discarded toy in the precision toy box?

The greatest threat of turbulence to the agricultural Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) market is not further FAA regulations or issues regarding individual privacy. The biggest issue is the data – the sheer volume of the data that is being collected by all those flights. How do you process it?  Where do you store it? And the biggest question very few have thought of is – how to upload it to the web.

Ag Eagle UAV

The answer to this issue may be similar to what a movie rental company did to rent DVD’s for those who lacked “good” internet services. That company was Netflix and their service was simple. They’ll send you your favorite movies to watch in the mail. When you’re done just drop them back in the mailbox and they’ll send you the next movies on your “must watch” list.

Those flying agricultural UAV’s face a similar dilemma. Lot’s of data and limited internet bandwidth in rural areas.

That’s why we at Prime Meridian have just introduced a new service called Precision Pixel Express which allows you to drop your day’s worth of flights in a pre-paid UPS envelope where they are sent to a high-speed upload center for processing. Your data is immediately processed and is viewable and downloadable through an online cloud service called MyAgCentral.  Your raw and processed data along with your data storage device is then also returned to you.

Stitched Collage Photo

The fact of the matter is that the UAV’s used for serious agronomic purposes take hundreds of infrared “snapshots” as they fly over a field. One UAV flight over a single 80 acre field can generate nearly 1 gigabyte worth of image data. In order for those images to become a whole picture of that field they must be woven together by a sophisticated software “stitching” program.

Many UAV buyers were told that they could “stitch” their own images on their own PC. This is true and can possibly work on a small scale. But the reality is that “processing” those images from that 80 acre field will probably take between 1.5 to 2 hours to stitch together on your own PC. That doesn’t even begin to count the time to geo-reference the images which is necessary in order to create a GIS layer to share with other mapping programs or create fertility recommendations.

That’s why, unless you have IBM’s “Deep Blue” supercomputer in your garage not many agricultural UAV owners are likely to chain themselves to their PC to make maps of fields flown. However, because of the lack of access of high speed Internet out in the country many thought they did not have a choice.  Now they do.  For more information on Precision Pixel Express and Precision Pixel imagery processing services, please contact Justin Ogle at Prime Meridian by calling 417-667-4471 or email him at justin@primemeridiandata.com.

Who knows? Maybe with all that extra time you can sit back, relax, pop some popcorn and enjoy a movie!

Farming Data Moves to the Cloud

Mostly cloudy.  That is the one forecast that most farmers can take to the bank over the next couple of years.  No we’re not talking about the weather because that’s anybody’s guess. Instead it describes where farming is headed – it is headed to this abstract thing called the cloud.  The online “cloud” is going to be replacing clunky storage devices like USB sticks and flash cards and bypassing desktop PC’s and in-house servers and going to internet based storage sites affectionately known as the cloud.  

I had the pleasure of sitting on an industry panel that addressed this subject with growers attending the Commodity Classic in San Antonio. Here is a news article, titled “Farming Moves to the Cloud,” from the San Antonio Express-News that highlights some of the excerpts from that discussion.

SteveCubbageCommodityClassic2

Steve Cubbage, pictured on the left, addresses the crowd at Commodity Classic.

Prime Meridian Champions “Precision Standards” at AgGateway Conference

Last month I had the honor of speaking at the AgGateway annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My topic was “Precision Agricultural Standards” as it relates to data and the sharing of data within the industry.  I told the group attending that the lack of common naming standards and the continued use proprietary data types adopted by precision hardware manufacturers has slowed and even stalled progress when it comes to advances that could benefit the industry – most importantly at the producer level.

For those of you who do not know about AgGateway and the role they play within the agricultural industry I would encourage you to learn more about them.  Their website can be found here: http://www.aggateway.org/

In a nutshell, they are an industry standards advocacy group that has already done tremendous work to move agricultural commerce into the 21st century.  Their work in  areas of agricultural e-commerce has provided the “common language” whenever inputs like seed, fertilizer and crop protection products are transacted throughout the agricultural supply chain.

It would seem only natural that an unbiased, highly respected organization like AgGateway be the one to shepherd the industry players in working toward precision agriculture standards.  To learn more about this subject and what I told those who gathered in New Mexico check out Rich Keller’s post on the AgProfessional’s website by clicking here.

Precision Data: The Harvest That Lasts Year-Round

Even as planting season started this spring so too did harvest.

No not the harvest of corn and soybeans but the harvest of data.  And the big players in this space are the mega bio-science companies Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred who are harvesting millions of acres worth of data annually.

Those living alongside the dusty country roads out in the Heartland have had a front row seat in watching these companies jockey for position in this new digital agricultural sweepstakes.  It is also catching the eye of Wall Street as well.  In last week’s June 14th edition of the Wall Street Journal there was a feature article on the new “Data Harvest” taking place in agriculture.

There is no doubt in my mind that the recent purchase of the precision hardware company Precision Planting by the genetic powerhouse Monsanto prompted the writer to pen this article.

If you will recall a few weeks ago on my blog I wrote about Monsanto shaking up the precision ag world with this purchase. I said then that the purchase had little to do with the purchase of a profitable hardware company.  Rather it had everything to do with access to some of the best real-time planting data a researcher and a sales team could ever ask for.

But what was really intriguing about the article was the mention of another company – MachineryLink – who is also entering the race for data.  For those of you who have not heard the name MachineryLink it is a company based in Kansas City that leases combines to producers all across North America.  MachineryLink has created a company called FarmLink that is going to be collecting valuable real-time harvest data from their massive fleet of combines.  FarmLink will then distribute that data to its grower customers and then market it to crop insurers, farm management firms and farmland investors such as pension funds.  Now you know why Wall Street is so interested in what’s going on in the country!

Monsanto, Pioneer and FarmLink are just a handful of the companies that are attempting to fill the niches of this new market.  It has the feel of a modern-day gold rush and no doubt there’s going to be booms and busts and plenty of excitement along the way.

Jeff Banker a FarmLink representative quoted in the article summed it up the best of what’s going on.

“Every business that exists now is a data business,” said Banker.  “Farming is just on the cusp of that.”

To read more about this story check out the article entitled:  Farmers Prepare for the Data Harvest from the Thursday, June 14th Business Technology section of the Wall Street Journal.

Wireless Wave for Precision is More Like a Tsunami

A wireless wave is coming to precision agriculture.  Precision pundits predict that 2012 will be the tipping point in regards to wireless solutions for precision agriculture.  The technology, the economics and most importantly ease of use has matured from a junior high science project to a viable mainstream solution in the world of precision.

Some may ask what all the hoopla is all about concerning wireless data transfer and precision agriculture.  The industry’s seasoned veterans are hoping, praying that this technology can deliver information and data services seamlessly and completely like never before.

Why is this so important?  Simple. In computer terms the industry needs a reboot – a restart – to Precision Agriculture 2.0.  Ever since the early days of the first GPS yield monitors massive amounts of data never made it the short distance from the combine to the office computer.  It is the digital equivalent of leaving a crop in the field to go to waste.

Being able to seamlessly capture “real-time” data instantly from planting to harvest may finally unlock the agronomic promises originally predicted in the early days of precision agriculture.  Plus, it literally puts a “virtual” agronomist in the field by being able to wirelessly send prescriptions to the cab and also monitor growing crops from afar.

With all this promise also come possible pitfalls. Wireless data transfer sounds wonderful – but transfer to where?  Equipment and hardware manufacturers are quickly jockeying to build the infrastructure to capture these streaming bytes of information.  The big name players – John Deere, CNH, Raven, Trimble and Ag Leader all either have a solution or have outlined their wireless plans that will roll in the coming months.

But what are hardware companies going to do with digital mountains of agronomic data?  Certainly makes you wonder what their end game is. Just how this “data” is going to be made available back to the producer?  How much is it going to cost to retrieve it?  What happens when a grower has a “mixed” set of precision hardware brands?  Is it going to be like when you need $100 cash from the bank and you have go to 5 different banks to withdraw it?

It is because of questions like these that independent data management companies like Prime Meridian have a legitimate place in this new wireless world of precision agriculture.  Why?  Because producers want a single, safe, independent home where they can go online to do their precision business.  And with wireless on the way – that business is likely to boom.

Prime Meridian Welcomes You

We’re happy to welcome you to the Prime Meridian Blog. Our goal is to make this blog the center of discussion for all precision agriculture data while demonstrating how technology that provides storing and sharing tools can lead to profit for your farm.

We believe that farm data belongs to the customer. It’s your farm, and that means it should be your data. It should be yours to share with the local professionals you trust. We believe that is the only way that precision agriculture and your farm can grow. Not everyone feels the same way. Stay tuned, as we expect this to be a fairly interesting topic and potentially controversial topic on this blog.

But this won’t be a blog just about farm data. We’ll talk about Ag news, precision farming and hopefully give you some insights into what goes into making your farm perform at an optimum level.

We’d prefer that this be a two way conversation. So let us know what you think of what you’re reading and make suggestions on what you’d like to learn more about. We’re listening.

Lastly, we get a lot of questions about our name. The “Prime Meridian” is a line of longitude at which the longitude is zero. So basically, everything starts from 0 degrees, or, the Prime Meridian. When it comes to farm data, we’d like you to start with us.