Farm Data

When new technology comes out in agriculture, farmers usually have one of two reactions: they’re scared of it, or they can’t wait for all the potential opportunities. After awhile, it’s apparent what the technology can and can’t do, and farmers determine whether they should use it on their farm.

Shannon Ferrell is an associate professor of ag economics at Oklahoma State University. He says whether it’s “small data” technology specific to one farm, or “big data” which may encompass thousands of farms, the information is only as good as that data’s reliability.

"So, if we’re going to aggregate data across tens-of-thousands of farms, number one, we probably need some sort of standard data language to make that kind of communication happen," says Ferrell. "We’ve got to understand that data from this farm stacks up apples-to-apples compared to the data from this farm, so you need a common data language but you also need a standard means of calibrating those sensors and making sure that they actually are saying the same thing."

 Farmers often wonder if they own the data, and how much is it worth? His answer is, what’s the data worth to you?

"Is the value of that data just simply knowing how you performed last year and you want the pride of knowing that I did really well? Or are you going to actively use that data to make management decisions that hopefully will make your farm more profitable? So, if you’re able to determine what the value of that data is in terms of how you set your decisions for the year going forward, that probably dictates what that data’s value is to you," he says.

And then there’s privacy. How much would you pay to have that data kept secret? Ferrell says it’s an important topic for some, and others say, “I don’t care, put my data on the web.”

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