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2016 Commodity Classic: Data Demands

From who owns the data to the ways we manage the data, this four-letter word seems to have taken on a life of its own. Big data has become a big headache. 

To better understand concerns and current hurdles of ag data management, the Alabama Precision Ag Extension conducted a survey during the winter of 2012/2013. Farmers across the Midwest and Southern states, along with ag professionals, were asked one simple question, “What are the needs related to data management at the farm level in order to make it more successful and valuable?”

Here are the top five responses farmers said would make data management more valuable for their farming operations.

1 Wireless data transfer. Farmers want easy and automatic wireless data transfer through open-source software (Web-based) so data is in one location. As this concept comes of age, having the ability to shed the disks and the USB drives is long overdue. More and more companies are moving toward making data transfer more seamless. Cloud technology is where data management is headed.

2 Knowledgeable guidance.
Where do you find help to get started in data management? There is a great need for local support as well as training. As farmers continue to decipher their data, the support they receive will be critical to their success.

3 Simplified software. Farmers want more user-friendly farm-management software. Web-based is preferred so data can be accessed from any electronic device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

4 Quick-start guides. Since farmers only touch certain types of technology a few times a year, reminders in the form of quick-start guides – such as how to use interfaces or displays – would be extremely helpful. This also includes making sure technology is set up and operating correctly so data is collected successfully.

5 Standardized and compatible. Farmers want to be able to easily share data between different machines and operating platforms.

A recurring theme throughout the survey included software solutions to better merge accounting and precision ag data layers, which provide field and product-level costing. 

Farmers want software solutions that are not tied to one supplier or service provider. Rather, they want to be able to receive and send data to and from multiple field devices and suppliers. “Farmers are definitely warming up to data management in agriculture, but hurdles at the equipment and software levels are really limiting progress today,” says John Fulton, Auburn University. 

Develop a cure
To provide a cure for the data headache, the industry must move toward a seamless solution that will help farmers analyze data as a means to make better management decisions.

Until that happens, the bandages being used now won’t hold an industry clamoring for answers on how to feed a growing population.

As the ag industry works toward a number of remedies, one point still rings true: Making data management more productive and informative relies not in the software, but in the user. The limiting factor of what farmers get out of any piece of technology will be their own capabilities. “First and foremost, farmers must be engaged in all discussions related to data management,” says Fulton.

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