Growing IT and Big Data in Agriculture

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Have you ever been inside the cab of a tractor or combine?  Today more technology exists in the cab of a tractor than in most offices. With this modern in-cab technology, it makes the older generation of farmers, like my grandfather, furious when the combine can’t run because the GPS needs calibrated, someone forgot to get the SD card, or data isn’t being recorded properly. But for farmers today, data is now at the forefront of their thinking.

Data and analytics is the new frontier in agriculture, but bringing together technology, cloud computing, and big data is no easy task. With falling commodity prices in the last year, farmers are turning to agricultural companies to bring real tangible value to their farms through the use of new genetics and precision agriculture technology. 

At Beck’s, we are constantly focused on bringing value to the American farmer. Through our new precision agriculture technology FARMserver™, Becks is able to bring together, big data, real time sensors, mobility, and imagery to farmers. Beck’s was recently awarded a special achievement in geographic information systems (GIS) from ESRI, a GIS software company, for the innovation of FARMserver and our internal business intelligence systems. Farm management systems that house farmers’ data, allow mobile data collection, and let farmers share their data with trusted advisors have become common place in our industry. We were honored to be recognized by the GIS community for bringing complex GIS tools to the farm in an easy-to-use website.

There are two key areas that we need some improvement on statewide to help support ag innovation.  The first is access to high speed internet. There are many farms and businesses in the rural part of our state that are thirsty for access to high speed internet (10MB+). To put it into perspective, for a farmer to upload 2-10GB of yield data per day during harvest is not uncommon.

What about UAVs in agriculture? It is possible for UAVs to become common place on the farm. Some UAVs could be generating upwards of 32 to 64 GB of data per flight. This data needs to move from the farm to the Cloud and be processed, then sent back to the farmer in some tangible form. This will oversaturate these outdoor mesh wireless networks and bring wireless service providers to their knees. If you talk to a farmer, most of the time it’s not an issue of price, but an issue of access.

The second area that we need to focus on to support Ag innovation is collaboration. I have been very encouraged by the work of organizations like AgriNovus Indiana within our state.  This organization has private business, state agencies, and universities coming together to help each other. This organization will be key to helping everyone in the state remain connected and focused as well as educate the public about the exciting products, companies, and innovation coming out of Indiana.

In closing, I am very excited to see what the future of agriculture technology brings to the state of Indiana. With organizations like AgriNovus Indiana, it is going to be awesome to watch all the different sectors in Indiana work together in order to further agriculture innovation. We are at the beginning of something great, the convergence of IT, big data, and agriculture.

Brad Fruth is Information Systems Manager at Beck's Hybrids.  

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