Big Data – Let’s not mess it up!

Guest Contributor: Charlie O'Brien, AEM Senior Vice President and Ag Sector Lead
Big Data – Let’s not mess it up!
Guest Contributor: Charlie O'Brien, AEM Senior Vice President and Ag Sector Lead<br />The term Big Data is just a bit scary. In part, the name itself conjures up this immense mountain of bits and bytes that are now coming off the farm to be used in various manners to increase production. It also may invoke thoughts of Big Brother, with fears of who may ...

The term Big Data is just a bit scary. In part, the name itself conjures up this immense mountain of bits and bytes that are now coming off the farm to be used in various manners to increase production. It also may invoke thoughts of Big Brother, with fears of who may get their hands on some of this data. Will it be an environmental agency that is watching and looking for any potential improper application of pesticides or which seeds are used where? Will information get out to the landlord or neighbor? Who has the right to see the data? Who owns the data?

There is a flurry of activity around data ownership and the privacy of the data. These are important issues and all will be worked out through the good work of Farm Bureau and many of the Commodity groups with the cooperation of seed and chemical companies, equipment manufacturers and others. AEM applauds this work and certainly supports the tenet that data coming off the farm belongs to the farmer and he should be in control of where the data goes and who gets to see it.

But should it really be called Big Data? Wouldn’t SMART DATA be a more appropriate term? The data, by design, is used for decision making.

If used in a smart way the data can tell us what seeds to use, what application of fertilizer and crop protection are needed this year compared to last year. A survey of soybean farmers in 2012 showed a rapid payback using these technologies -- a 15% savings on seed, fertilizer, and chemicals. A study has been cited that through the use of precision technology, farmers increased their yield by 16% and cut down water use by 50%. WOW! That is tremendous. And we have only just begun to realize the potential.

SMART DATA will revolutionize our industry. Sixty years after biological innovation gave rise to the Green Revolution of the 1950’s, technological innovation has the potential to again sweep the developing world, helping to feed millions -- IF we don’t get in the way and mess it up. Panelists throughout October’s Borlaug Dialogues referred to the potential for SMART DATA to help increase yields of African smallholders enabling them to end the hunger and grow sufficient food for themselves. Quick and easy communications via cell phone (common throughout Africa) could direct farmers on best practices for their current field conditions, potentially saving a crop from pest or disease.

Let’s look at that big picture, the potential beyond our borders. Let’s help our farmers provide food to far world reaches through increased yields resulting from SMART DATA. But we can do better than that. We can also help feed starving people in those regions where food can’t reach them due to infrastructure or politics by sharing best practices. We can all help to feed hungry people in developing countries and meet those 2050 demands by helping them to farm better using SMART DATA.

So let’s build the electronic bridges between the data clouds and build the right security measures so that farmers are comfortable releasing their data for select uses. And let’s build the right standards around the data formats so all the appropriate people can see and interpret the data using a common language and format so we don’t spend billions of dollars in having to decipher and translate code for each application for which the SMART DATA will be used. In other words, let’s work together in this new, exciting world of SMART DATA.

AEM will do its part in trying to help influence the market and represent our members in development of standard data formats and tools for connectivity in the most beneficial way possible for the industry as a whole. We’re facilitating communications with organizations like Ag Gateway and OADA and are realizing that we really all do share one common goal. If we are successful, we WILL meet the food demands of the world.

We have found a solution just as we always do in this industry. Let’s not get scared or build big walls around the SMART DATA for what could be perceived as commercial benefit. This would be detrimental to reaping the full benefit of what SMART DATA has to offer. And for goodness sakes, can we call it SMART DATA instead of Big Data?!

Source: www.aem.org