Category Archives: Data Storage

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!

Big Ag has Discovered Big Data…and it’s Making Big News

Photo courtesy of Climate

Photo courtesy of Climate Corporation.

Big Ag has discovered Big Data in a Big Way and it’s making Big News.  In fact, it made the front page of the Wall Street Journal last week as industry representatives and producers chimed in on the brewing debate over the subject of data and data ownership.  Bold moves especially by firms like Monsanto buying a “big data” firm like Climate Corporation for nearly a billion dollars only has added fuel to the fire. 

It was a very sobering article regarding the great number of questions that are yet to be resolved regarding this subject of data and who is in control.  The biggest question for producers is who is driving this ship – them or the seed companies?  If producers want to take the wheel they better grab it before it is too late.  Also is there a place for smaller independent data management firms like Prime Meridian amongst the industry giants like Monsanto, Deere and Pioneer.  Here is the link to the very in-depth and thought provoking article in last week’s Wall Street Journal.

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.

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.

“Spring Forward” with your Precision Goals with “Monitor Prep”

Sure you changed your clocks last weekend for Daylight Savings Time. But the question is – are you ready to go to the field to start the 2012 crop year? Sure you’ve greased the planter and the seeds in the bag are ready to go, but are you really ready?

As I was resetting all my clocks in my house I wondered why producers shouldn’t do the same thing with their “electronic devices” before they go to the field in the spring.

If synchronizing all clocks and changing out your smoke alarm batteries are a spring ritual – shouldn’t prepping your precision equipment for the season be just as important?

At Prime Meridian we created a service that we hope becomes a spring ritual called “Monitor Prep” – a lot like setting your clocks forward. Monitor Prep is like spring cleaning — wiping the slate clean to start the new year fresh when it comes to collecting good and complete data from your precision monitors all season long.

Good precision agriculture just doesn’t happen. It’s a lot easier to collect good data if a precision display has been properly prepped with the right field names, the right field boundaries and the correct labels of all the seed varieties and crop inputs that made your pick list for 2012.

Failing to walk away from your field operations without collecting the right data is a great waste of precision technology that will impact the management of your farming business for years to come. Precision displays should not be treated like Etch-a-Sketches that you doodle on during the season for entertainment value – and you can’t just shake them clean when you’re ready to start another season.

Those of us at Prime Meridian believe the real rewards in precision and farming’s future will go to those who think of the equipment as true tools – just like they would with their tractor, combine, planter, disk, etc. For equipment perform correctly it has to be set correctly – and that in a nutshell is the first step to success on the path to precision.

Every Field has a Story to Tell – Are you Listening?

Harvest 2011 is in the books. But if you collected GPS yield data it still has a story to tell.

When producers question us about what is the most important piece of precision agriculture data – without hesitation our answer is yield data.  Why?  It is the last chapter in the book. It is the summary of all the management decisions you made during the crop year on a particular field.

Yield maps literally help paint a picture of a particular field’s personality.  Strengths. Weaknesses. All are revealed in digital living color.  Making major agronomic decisions however based on one year’s worth of yield data is sort of like getting married after only one date.  Agronomy professionals say that most fields only reveal their true personalities after being tested by Mother Nature over the course of three to four years.

That’s why if growers want to graduate to the agronomic perks that precision ag can offer like variable-rate seeding and multiple-zone field fertility recommendations they need back to back to back years of yield data.  Then through analytical agronomic tools like “normalized” yield maps you can better predict the tendencies of each acre and manage accordingly.

This is why those of us at Prime Meridian share such a passion in regards to the collection, calibration and preservation of combine GPS yield data.  It is one of the main reasons we created our “Precision Prep” program for monitors to ensure data is properly organized and collected at the time of harvest.  It also is why we offer either remote or on-site yield monitor calibration assistance for nearly any brand of yield monitor because only good data leads to good agronomy.  And finally, it is why we offer producers free online storage for yield and other important agronomic GPS information through our online web portal called AgriMAX.

If you have been collecting and using yield data for years to make management decisions – then good for you.  If not, your farms and fields still have a story to tell.  You can never recreate GPS yield data. The Good Lord and Mother Nature only give producers so many harvests in a lifetime.  So make each one count and make sure you harvest and store the digital crop of data as well as the one that showed up in your grain tank.

Discover the Superpowers of a Prime Meridian AgriMAX Account

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Those aren’t exactly the questions people ask when they inquire about Prime Meridian’s online data portal called AgriMAX but there sure have been a lot of questions since the launch of our website.

What is AgriMAX?  Is it a mapping software?  Is it an online FTP site?

The simple answer to those questions is AgriMAX is the home for precision agriculture data.  More specifically it is a place for your retail business to streamline and do the business of precision agriculture.

Probably the most important question we’ve gotten is simply – “What can AgriMAX do for my business?”  The answer to that question is up to you the retailer.  But rest assured by using the tools and services offered by Prime Meridian through your secure AgriMAX account you certainly come off looking like a superhero to your customers. Click here to learn more about a Prime Meridian AgriMAX account.

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.