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Build a digital farm strategy

Fulton 8
Every farm needs a data collection plan, even if you’re not using the information immediately.

Being reluctant about data collection for your fields is not a good plan. It’s best to think in terms of what the data collected could mean for the future of the operation.

These words of wisdom came from John Fulton, associate professor in the department of agriculture at Ohio State University.  He spoke in November at our inaugural Ag Data Conference in Iowa City, Iowa – talking about the best practices for farm data.

He emphasized that producers needs to start collecting data, or the operation will feel the impact in a few years from now. And it is necessary to use prescriptive farming that will drive efficiency.


Data collection

Collecting data must include agronomic data, machine data and production data. Agronomic data is the seeds planted, the fertilizer and herbicides applied as the crops were planted. The machine data includes the engine parameters on equipment, tractor status variables, the implement mode and functions. Other data for collection include satellites, aerial views and information collected by drones.


Need data field by field

Fulton told the crowd that there are key data layers to gather to use prescriptive agriculture. One is operational field boundaries. Others include yield maps and as-planted maps.

For farmers who want to manage on a field-by-field basis, building a field-by-field database is important.

Key to this database is maintaining copies and backups of display data. He urged all farmers to retain a copy of their raw data including as-planted data and the yield maps data. “Download the data on a routine basis during field operations (planting and harvest),” said Fulton.


Keeping original data

It’s important to maintain the original data because once it is uploaded, it can be translated within the software and an original copy will not be maintained. By keeping original data, you can share it with multiple people or companies. Plus, you may not be able to get the original data back from data service providers.


Data storage

Every farm should have both an on-farm and off-farm storage plan. Multiple storage plans ensure that a copy of the data exists, not relying on many thumb drives. On-farm storage can include the computer itself, external hard drives or a server. 

Off-farm storage, like an inexpensive cloud service, often delivers an automatic backup. It can make it easier to utilize data services in the ag industry if it’s saved in the Cloud, rather than on the farm storage such as the computer itself.

Another issue is keeping the data organized. Fulton recommends saving it by folder names that include the year, the farm or field, crop and the type of data. “Chose a system that works for you. At least label the data with a year,” he said.

“Bottom line, make sure your data storage and backup allows you to effectively share or provide access to those they want to conduct business with other data services, whether it’s now or in the future.”

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