How to make the most of data


The average farm generated about 500,000 data points per day, according to a 2016 Business Insider Intelligence report. This figure is expected to grow to more than 4 million per day by 2034. data for their benefit. Yet turning raw data into actionable, usable information has been a struggle for years.

“The domestic agriculture industry, in general, has a troubled history in this area,” says Jennifer Clarke, director of the Quantitative Life Sciences Initiative and faculty in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “So the producers are very nervous when it comes to their data.”

To address this issue, the USDA has tasked land-grant universities with developing a plan for a national data framework and a cooperative where producers, universities and nonprofit entities can store and share data as well. than creating tools that allow producers to maximize production and profitability.

“The USDA understands that data is important, especially as the conversation continues around carbon capture and agricultural sustainability. He also appreciates growers concerns about data and safety,” says Clarke.

“They see land-grant universities as a trusted partner for farmers – that’s why they’re relying on us to lead the National Agricultural Producers’ Data Cooperative [NAPDC] project. We do not try to take advantage of your data. Our goal is to build this according to the needs of the producers. We want to empower you to manage your data and learn from it.

It also means producers need to be part of the conversation. “I think a lot of them would like something similar to the co-op model, which means the producers would handle that as well. They get a vote to decide what happens and how it should work,” she says. “We also need to be transparent about what the value will be. If a farmer is going to participate in this framework, he wants economic value at the end of the year like he would get from a cooperative. Ultimately, the idea is to have a network of regionalized databases. “We want it to be driven by regional needs,” Clarke says. “Our job will be to keep everyone connected nationally. For example, if someone in Vermont wants to solve problems in dairy management practices, someone in Wisconsin might be interested in being part of this project. We can put you in touch with them.

Initial steps

The NAPDC ( plans to initially target two areas. These will give researchers and stakeholders the opportunity to be part of the foundational conversations and contribute to the conceptualization and eventual construction of a national framework.

1. Webinars. The meetings will focus on community needs with respect to a national distributed data framework and emerging technologies/methods to enable the framework.

2. Competitive grant program. The program aims to enable national, regional and/or area-specific stakeholder groups to organize meetings and encourage broad and diverse participation in the development of the master plan. Creating an agricultural data repository is not a new concept. In recent years, the Agricultural Data Coalition, AgGateway, Open Ag Data Alliance and others have created systems designed for growers. Yet obstacles remain.

A standardized and secure system driven and controlled by producers will fill an important need in the data space, but it is still a relatively new idea.

“The USDA has been talking about data for a long time, but I don’t think they knew exactly what to do about it,” Clarke says. “I think part of the reason the USDA ultimately decided to develop this type of system is that there is recognition within the federal government of the potential value behind intelligent adoption of intelligence. artificial. [AI] that will solve problems related to carbon capture, sustainability and productivity.

AI can help enable multiple scenarios for agriculture, including automation and precision farming, says Ranveer Chandra, general manager of industrial research at Microsoft. “It can help fill in the gaps in farm data and also help predict certain values,” he says.

The caveat is that AI is only as good as your data, and you need a lot of it. “If you don’t have good data, your AI models will suffer,” Chandra says.

With an April 2023 deadline and an initial budget of $500,000, Clarke knows this is no small feat.

“There are a lot of data issues that we’re trying to solve,” she says. “As land-grant universities, our mission is to enable and educate the agricultural community. That’s what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish with this project. We want to build it for farmers from the ground up, and we’re here to defend them. »


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