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Serving: Central

Data: informed or overwhelmed?

Ginger Rowsey Farmer looks at tablet
Combing through farm data is a common winter activity.
Data may hold the answers, but they are often more elusive than we are led to believe.

I think we’ve all come to accept that we live in a data-driven society. It is amazing and scary all at once, but it is the future, and one that can lead to great advancements, particularly in farming. 

While data may hold the key to better decisions on topics ranging from irrigation, to soil fertility, to equipment maintenance, the answers are often more elusive than we are led to believe. Partly due to the sheer volume of data that producers must wade through to reach a conclusion. 

The World Economic Forum estimates 44 zettabytes of data were created in 2020. A zettabyte is equal to one trillion gigabytes. I don’t think there is an analogy that can bring those numbers to a manageable understanding for many of us, but the one used by the WEF is that if you placed all the data created in 2020 on 1 GB thumb drives and laid them end to end, they would stretch across 4 billion football fields.  

The thing about data is that while it can inform, it can also overwhelm, making decisions harder, not easier. Producers who are spending their winter combing through their own mountains of data understand that well. How do we keep data from becoming a bottleneck that prevents the adaptation of best precision farming practices? New platforms are constantly arriving on the scene that claim to present data that can be easily interpreted in real time. But some platforms still have a way to go. 

Data-driven decisions have leaked into writing, too. Not to pull back the curtain too much, but writing about a topic just because it “seems” interesting and you “think” your readers will like it is discouraged. Instead, good writers first research what their readers are searching online, then write an article based on topics that are being searched for the most.  

It makes sense. Why not write about topics for which readers are already curious? There are even companies that do the research for you so you can easily find the top-of-mind topics.  

I started a free trial with one of those companies. The most popular keyword for internet users who visit the Delta Farm Press website is “agriculture.” The second most popular is “farming.” I can’t print what I thought when reading those keywords, but the phrase ends in “Sherlock.” I’m still not sure how that information will help me write articles more relevant to our readers. 

There was more to the company’s research beyond the obvious keywords. I’m sure it will be helpful, if I can ever find the time to really analyze it. The next time I hear a farmer say those words, I’ll have a little more empathy. 

In the meantime, if you have a story topic you would like to read about, can you just email me? 

TAGS: Data
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