Who Will Benefit from Ag Data’s Competitive Advantage?

Two farmers talking in the field

Written by Marjorie Valin

November 24, 2021

Gone are the days when retailers could compete on selling seeds, equipment and crop protection products. In 2022, the competitive advantage will go to advisors who know how to help farmers benefit from their on-farm data.

For farmers and advisors, data offers advantages that crop inputs do not.  Revenue from data does not end at harvest time. In fact, the value of data is unlimited and multifold. It can be shared with multiple parties, sold over and over, and compounded each time new data is added, once it’s interoperable and able to flow cleanly from one system to the next.

“Interoperable data is that which can be shared and exported in nonproprietary formats,” explained Bradford Warner, VP of Business Development at Farmobile. “Because it’s not specific to any type of vehicle or any one party, it can fulfill multiple uses across multiple partners. The benefit of interoperability has huge financial implications for retailers and growers.”

“Interoperable data adds dimension to a field and value for anyone with the foresight to realize what’s possible when data from different systems used for different purposes can be layered on top of each other,” said Skyward Apps CEO Kat Crawford. “Suddenly you can see the world in three dimensions whereas it has been flat before.”

Data’s massive opportunities will go to the early adaptors 

For ag retailers, coops and other advisors, data’s massive opportunities are yours to win or lose, depending on what you do in 2022. Retailers and coops that know how to help growers increase the value of each acre can get a leg up on competitors. Retailers and coops that take a wait and see attitude risk losing business for their growers and themselves, and that never ends well.

There are signs that retailers sitting on the sidelines may be losing ground in the data stampede. In an industry survey earlier this year, growers were asked who they consider trusted advisers when it came to technology and data. Retailers ranked third after equipment dealers and agronomic consultants. A CropLife survey of retailers’ attitudes toward technology show that 44% see digital offerings by competitors as very disruptive to their precision offerings; 62% view e-commerce platforms as a future threat to their business.

There are no do-overs. Data not collected is data lost.

Data must be collected before it can be used. Data on that “as applied” map will not be available to retailers to leverage unless it is stored, tracked and shared to show “what was done when” for their thousands of growers and millions of acres. The same applies to the data layers that growers and advisors will need (like planting, harvest, tillage, as-applied, etc.) to verify conservation practices, measure carbon sequestration, and create traceability through the food supply chain.

Ag retailers and coops have an obligation and opportunity to help their growers adapt and compete, and those who have made the investment are already reaping the benefits. Working with retailers and growers, Farmobile is collecting live machine and agronomic data at field and fleet levels. One of the real-time benefits is viewing and documenting — in real-time — the amount of time individual machines vs. a full fleet sit idle. The results have enabled ag retailers, in particular, to increase efficiencies and cover more as-applied acres on behalf of growers while using fewer machines for significant savings – and data they own.

Prepare for the world of interoperable data.

Data is no longer a byproduct of agriculture. It is the product itself. For retailers and coops who have data that can’t be shared or exchanged because it’s stored in systems that can’t connect, now is the time to develop a plan and find an software integrator with the requisite experience and no skin in the game. Connecting applications can be a tricky business. A million things can go wrong, and the biggest problems are those you don’t know to expect.

“Boundary data in one system not reconciled with boundary data in another system leads to botched seed purchases where growers are left without enough seeds to plant,” said Nick Elliott, Skyward’s CTO. “Source data that is inaccurate or not documented can lead to inconsistencies, duplicate data and replicated work when not integrated right.”

Understanding how data will shape farm decisions will take on more importance as voluminous data is added and integrated for conservation, sustainability and traceability.

 In the data lane, there are passengers and there are drivers 

Volkswagen ran a brilliant campaign years back with the slogan, “On the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers. Drivers Wanted.” The underlying message was, don’t sit back, take control of the wheel and embrace the road less traveled. Farmers and advisors are headed down that road less traveled, which begs the question, who will be in the driver’s seat?

A data strategy starts by asking questions and taking inventory: what’s collected, what’s not, where it’s stored and where are the missed opportunities. That’s why Skyward Apps and Farmobile are partnering to offer help to qualified retailers and coops, at no cost, to assess their existing technologies. As independent data specialists with decades of agtech experience, Farmobile and Skyward Apps will identify the best opportunities to “grow with the flow”. This is a process, not a sprint, and a manageable step forward to start the new year.

Make 2022 the springboard for growth.

Click here to request a complementary Data Assessment.

Skyward Apps is an ag technology firm that helps ag retailers, co-ops, manufacturers and data service providers build their digital capacity and early market advantage. Based in Columbia, MD, we create exceptional software, make technologies work together, and facilitate coordination across dispersed engineering teams to expedite delivery of large digital projects. For more information on our clients and experience, see our case studies, and read our blog on The Digital Frontlines .

Farmobile LLC is a subsidiary of AGI (Ag Growth International) and builds foundational data technology to solve the industry’s greatest challenges from farm and field to across the ag-food supply chain. Based in Leawood, KS, Farmobile specializes in automatically collecting and standardizing second-by-second agronomic and machine data points across agricultural equipment and field activities. The Farmobile DataEngineSM platform transforms raw data into its own unique, visual Electronic Field Records (EFRs) making it easy for farmers and their trusted advisors to gain insights, share data and create a crop’s system of record for every pass on the field.

Co-published by Farmobile and Skyward Apps in Precisionag.com.