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What Big Data Could Mean on Your Farm

What Big Data Could Mean on Your Farm
Get past the term 'big data' and understand that information has value.

The first time you hear 'Big Data' you might think you are in a science fiction movie. Someone tries to explain it and winds up saying someone can learn almost limitless information about you. It sounds scary. Used in the wrong way, it could be. Used correctly, tons of people who work with farmers and crunch data believe it could put us on the tip of the iceberg of new, innovative ways of farming efficiently.

"We're going to see value in yield data," says Troy Walker with Ceres Solutions in west-central Indiana. "If it's just lying in your desk drawer in your office it's useless. But you need to collect and store it. Methods of using it aren't perfect yet, but they are getting better."

Data and more data: Troy Walker says data collection will be wave of the future.

Walker sees big changes in this field within the next 24 months, with some advances coming more quickly than others. The first step is more tools that capture data. Two notable ones already in place which continue to evolve and improve are Field View from Precision Planting and My John Deere, which introduced updates to the system just before the recent Farm Progress Show.

Related: Is 'Big Data' Worth Your Privacy Loss?

"They're capturing data and will let you send it to other people. It will be stored in the cloud," Walker says.

The other big advance coming in data collection and management are data dashboards. The first signs of activity in this area are already visible. "These systems will allow you to collect all kinds of data and bring it together so it has value for decision making," he says.

A third change coming within the next two years is single-source reporting to government agencies. Instead of reporting the same information to multiple government agencies, you will report one time, and the agencies will all receive the information. Walker says it was mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill, reaffirmed in the 2014 Farm Bill, but yet to be implemented. His sources tell him the Farm Service Agency has been given a hard deadline to have it ready for the 2016 cropping season.

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