Every point along the agricultural supply chain stands to benefit from data. From farmers looking to increase their yields to equipment manufacturers looking to improve products, data is essential to gaining a competitive edge. Agribusinesses in particular have a prime opportunity to become the trusted advisor of growers by delivering greater value from their on-farm data.
But as agribusinesses jump on the big data bandwagon, they are increasingly trying to be the hub by building their own data platform or pursuing joint ventures, which can be a huge investment of money and can take years to complete. By the time the platform is ready, the market for their services may have changed.
So how do agribusinesses realize the value of data and stand out from the competition without building a new digital tool to collect and analyze? One way is to create or customize APIs to tap into data that already exists and analyze the aggregated data for previously undetectable insights.
“The industry as a whole does a pretty phenomenal job of collecting data. So I don’t think data collection is really what people need to focus on,” says Libba Stanford, a consultant and expert on agriculture data strategy and analysis. “I would focus on what people are not getting out of what’s available to them today. Being able to utilize the data to make a real decision. That’s where they’re going to have to differentiate themselves.”
Data insights are the difference between leading the market and following it
Thousands of statistics on seed, inputs, yield and practices mean nothing if they can’t give agribusinesses clear direction on what’s working, what’s not, and where improvements can be made.
In order to gather these insights, agribusinesses need a connected infrastructure with a single view of all farm data available. It is not a small undertaking, but retailers like Landus understand the benefits of facilitating this integration sooner rather than later. The Iowa cooperative is building out a “Data Locker” staffed by experts and partners to help farm owners organize, analyze and tap the value of relevant data sooner rather than later. In this interview with Skyward Apps, CEO Matt Carstens says for farmers to realize the power of data faster, it will require a commitment to make systems interoperable.
Beware of accidentally modifying the data
The challenge of combining data from multiple sources is standardizing the data so it is uniform and shareable across systems. But manipulating these formats increases the chances of accidentally modifying the data. For example, let’s say you have data you can’t open in its proprietary format and use a software program to export it into a CSV file. But the data in that file was sampled at a different interval than the software which exported it. Now the data has been unintentionally resampled.
“A lot of software processes end up masking the loss or quality of the data,” Stanford says. “There are a lot of times we’re not even aware it happened, because the providers of farm data have done such a good job of burying everything in these proprietary formats.”
First work with what you have
Instead, Stanford suggests the solution to extracting value from multiple data sources in proprietary formats is to design a system that works with existing automated pathways from equipment, sensors and other data sources.
“I would do as much as possible to get those APIs set up that communicate across networks,” she says. “It’s probably going to be one of the absolute most critical pieces. That would be the first thing that I would tell people to do, is start working towards this interconnectivity across the board. Soil labs, soil sampling companies, chemical companies, independent consultants, you name it.”
Ultimately agribusinesses will need an interoperable infrastructure
Getting those different data sources compiled is key to finding new insights that will better serve farmers. Start with looking at what farmers are currently not getting out of the data they have available to them. That’s where agribusinesses can find the opportunity to stand out from the competition: being the provider that can put all the data together into insights that will drive decision-making.
Skyward is helping its agribusiness customers access a larger, more granular data pool by building the APIs and custom software that bridges gaps between disparate applications. Our experience in digital agriculture reduces the unknowns and accelerates speed to market. Ask us to show you some examples.