Takeaway: Big data is making a big impact on how things are done in the agriculture industry.
Big-data technology and agriculture are meant for each other. The ag industry has enough data to keep the most ardent data analyst happy. And while farmers aren’t typically considered to be among the digerati, maybe they should be; They can use what big-data technology does well – decipher mountains of data.
On a recent trip to Salinas Valley, I talked with Chris Drew, product manager for Ocean Mist Farms. He explained that technology like sensor arrays can measure ground moisture, soil conductivity and atmospheric conditions. That information is then sent to John Deere’s data centers via satellite or cellular transmitters.
At the data centers, John Deere algorithms crunch the sensor data, meld it with other pertinent historical data and present the results in a Web-based format Drew and others at Ocean Mist Farms use to determine when to water, when to fertilize and how much water to add so the fertilizer ends up where it’s needed — at the plant’s roots.
This technology saves water and fertilizer, reduces costs, saves Drew from digging exploratory holes in fields that stretch from horizon to horizon and results in cheaper, better produce.
Sensor Data Overload
That’s just one example of the myriad types of data that farmers keep track of. To learn about other types of sensor data, I referred to Quentin Hardy’s New York Times documentary Working the Land and the Data. Hardy asked Kip Tom, a seventh-generation farmer now running Tom Farms, to diagram the different data Tom Farms accrues. The following slide was the result.
Historically, farmers relied on ledgers. In turn, computersintroduced farmers to spreadsheets, and a better way to keep track of farm data. However, looking at the above white board diagram one can see spreadsheets are inadequate to compile and make sense of all that information. Enter big-data technology, which can easily handle it all.