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Industry group aims to ease a farm data challenge

AEF is developing a standard to simplify sharing of data from cloud to cloud.

Willie Vogt

January 2, 2024

4 Min Read
Agriculture and cloud technology concept
CREATING CLARITY: The many clouds holding data collected on the farm don’t talk to each other yet. But a new initiative by the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation aims to solve that problem. metamorworks/Getty Images

When a farmer sees clouds in the sky, it brings the hope of good news like a welcome rain. When it comes to farm data, seeing a lot of clouds often leads to only one thing — a headache. While storing your farm data in a cloud is great for protecting that data and sharing it, having multiple clouds sharing back and forth isn’t easy. One group is aiming to help solve that problem.

The Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF) has long worked on connectivity issues for the industry. First created to help companies and engineers ensure equipment can talk back and forth properly using the ISOBUS standard, the group’s work has expanded. This multi-company organization has:

  • worked to develop ISOBUS plug-and-play standards

  • helped develop Tractor Implement Management protocols

  • created standards for wireless infield communication

  • is working on a new high-speed ISOBUS standard

But there’s a problem. All that data sharing across the different brands of equipment and data capture devices is often stored in different data locations, or clouds. AEF is turning its attention to an Agricultural Interoperability Network (AgIN) to help solve that problem.

Taking on a challenge

Andrew Olliver, chair of AEF, who also works in connected services with CNH, notes the growing list of clouds challenges farmers and the industry. “All machinery has its own cloud, and more are being created with sensors and other systems,” he says. “Accessing that information across different clouds is a challenge. Today there are [application program interfaces] for some, but not all.”

Machine telemetry, field sensor information, harvest data and other forms of information have little value trapped in separate clouds, or data “buckets.” Farm management information systems, which can help turn data into profit information, and help better run farms, don’t have access to all those clouds easily. While APIs — those application program interfaces — can help, each is a kind of custom link between Manufacturer A and Service Provider B.

The AgIN standard would make those connections seamless. Once a data cloud conforms to the standard, connectivity gets easier. As explained by AEF during a media conference at Agritechnica recently, a farmer would be able to log into one data source or cloud, but data from any AgIN-compliant cloud would then be available. For example, when the standard is fully implemented, farmers logging into one source, perhaps a farm management system, would have “login access” to all other clouds where they store data.

There would be no more “moving” data; it would be available no matter where it was collected. “This would be a single process for the farmer, and they would keep control of where their data is stored and where it goes,” says Slawi Stesny, senior product manager of connectivity and data management at Agco. “There is a huge benefit for easier access to this information.”

Building a framework

AEF’s AgIN initiative will provide a framework to foster collaboration between members, partners and related initiatives. This will enable peer-to-peer connections, creating an industry-wide solution to share data to those agreed to interoperability.

These are some of the AEF member companies that have committed to the AgIN initiative:

  • Agco

  • AgGateway

  • Association of Equipment Manufacturers

  • Claas

  • CNH

  • John Deere

  • Krone

  • Kubota

  • Kuhn

  • Trimble

With the standard, AEF members may join the AgIN network with their existing clouds and access each other’s services on a peer-to-peer basis, ensuring data flows securely through the entire network. Each participant will continue to host its own platform and service, and will gain access to connect to other AgIN participants.

The key is those guidelines and templates. Each data cloud stores information in a unique way. For example, this standard would bridge that gap so a farmer pulling machine telemetry from an Agco machine and a CNH machine can “see” it in a farm management or accounting system to better evaluate efficiency. And the process would be seamless.

This framework could also make it easier to share data to other sources such as consumer companies that pay a premium based on farm practices. And gathering information from multiple devices — including in-field sensors, irrigation pumps and other tools — would be easier.

But this is no overnight process. Announcing an AEF standard or service is just a first step. Members will move forward to evaluate how the standard can be implemented with their existing systems. Olliver says later this year, the association hopes to have two or three implementations up and running.

Adds Norbert Schlingmann, general manager at AEF: “The agricultural industry has struggled to make it easy for farmers to transition to a digital world. This has slowed the adoption of digital technology on a global level, impeding productivity, efficiency and profitability of farming operations. Our member companies have committed to the AgIN initiative, showing an industry-wide dedication to make this imperative digital leap together.”

You can learn more about the standard and the work of AEF at aef-online.org.

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About the Author(s)

Willie Vogt

Willie Vogt has been covering agricultural technology for more than 40 years, with most of that time as editorial director for Farm Progress. He is passionate about helping farmers better understand how technology can help them succeed, when appropriately applied.

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