Secure Home Needed for Big Data06/17/2016
A new initiative was recently formed, aimed to help farmers better control, manage and maximize the value of data they collect in their fields.
The Agricultural Data Coalition includes the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, AGCO, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Auburn University, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, The Ohio State University, Mississippi State University, Raven Industries and Topcon Positioning Group. Those involved in the coalition have been planning and coordinating their efforts for several years, said Joe Luck, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“The current major activities with the (Agricultural Data Coalition) group revolve around creating the ‘pilot’ platform to begin enabling some of the online features to be tested by farmers,” Luck said. “At the moment, I’m leading an effort of a sub-group to form a producer-advisory group and working with another sub-group to develop the services that will be provided by the (Agricultural Data Coalition) to its members. (The university), as a founding member, will have input into this development process.”
At a Women in Agriculture conference earlier this year, Luck discussed precision agriculture data during a workshop.
“Modern ag equipment is driven by electronic systems,” he said. “There are numerous sensors and controllers on tractors and implements, and privacy ownership issues of the data collected are a key concern, as well as security issues because data is moved across the web and the ‘cloud.’”
The coalition’s goal is to build a national online repository where farmers can securely store and control information collected by tractors, harvesters, unmanned aerial vehicles and other devices.
“Pulling all of this information together with other, larger datasets such as imagery, weather and so forth is driving toward what is called ‘Big Data’ and ‘cloud’ computing in agriculture,” Luck said.
Using the technology for on-farm research looks promising, but how to address privacy issues and potential misuse of data is what drove the formation of the coalition.
The coalition hopes that over time, that data can be scrubbed, synced and transmitted in an efficient and uniform way to third parties, including researchers, crop-insurance agents, government officials, farm managers, input providers and farm advisers.
“We can now track applied rates for different products such as seed, chemical and fertilizer with some degree of accuracy,” Luck said. “These data can be useful from both an accounting and research perspective.”
Sources of precision agricultural data continue to grow, Luck said, and currently include field-based sensors for soil moisture, real-time weather data, center pivot monitoring, aerial or remote-sensed imagery, plant-health treatment through proximal sensing of crops, and crop-canopy sensors for nitrogen applications so nitrogen efficiency can be improved.
“On-the-go systems might provide additional information such as soil texture and conductivity, which will help with variable-rate herbicide management and nitrogen-prescription adjustments,” Luck said.
As producers track data they have the potential to add to the information they currently have available.
“I think the development approach taken by the (Agricultural Data Coalition) will serve as an industry model for adding value to small and large farm operations with respect to agricultural data privacy, access and utilization,” Luck said.
Using an example of data overlay and the potential for improving farm income when applied correctly, he showed how information from application of a split-planter hybrid, National Resources Conservation Service soil grades and yield-monitor data can be combined for analysis.
“A preliminary look showed there was not much difference between hybrids, but then it showed how slope impacts yield,” he said. “Furthering the analysis we can separate hybrid versus soil grade to look at yield. Separating these variables with (a Geographic Information System) provides more information. If I could take better-yielding hybrids and put them in the right places I could raise income $30 an acre. For some this could justify going to newer equipment to allow for these adjustments.”
Continually evaluating crop-input efficiency means profitability across the field is one of the tools coming into play.
“But you need to have a lot of historical yield data,” Luck said. “Data will drive more and more decisions.”