Reap profits from info, say data providers

Data generated by farm equipment and technology such as field mapping and yield and input monitoring systems can help farmers boost profits.

That issue was the focus of a lot of discussion at both the Agri Innovation Forum and the Agricultural Excellence Conference Nov. 19-21.

“Data. Jeez, something you haven’t heard about,” Agri-Trend founder Rob Saik joked at the Agri Innovation Forum as he pitched his company’s data system to venture capitalists. His pitch followed similar presentations by other hopeful Big Data providers.

Seven floors beneath the Agri Innovation Forum, the Agricultural Excellence Conference was also hearing plenty about the promise that some see farmers gaining from Big Data.

Scott Ostermann of Enns Brothers said data is being produced by farm equipment, technology and crop growing condition monitoring. The information from these machines, which is what is called Big Data, can also be combined for better farm management.

“If you can tie those three things together with an overarching data strategy, I think you’ll … be in a position to cut your cost of production or increase production at the end of the day and make a more profitable farm,” said Ostermann, whose company sells John Deere equipment.

Farmers can also remotely access and monitor grain bins, drying equipment and grain movement systems, and that data can now be combined and compared with numbers from other nearby farms and regions to see how a particular farm is doing compared to norms.

Entrepreneurs and farming visionaries see huge potential for creating “smart farming” through the integration of all these different systems, combined with analysis and the ability to respond to findings.

It could create great wealth for entrepreneurs who get the integration right and manage to convince farmers to use their systems. It’s also what was inspiring the plethora of talk and pitches at the Agri Innovation Forum.

“Variable rate everything is coming our way,” said Saik, who was asking for $12 million to commercialize Agri-Trend’s expanded Agri-Data subsidiary. “Farmers are going to need to manage this information in some way. They’re going to need it so it’s useable.”

Conservis Corp. chief executive officer Pat Christie said tying all the data together is challenging but will be more important than just collecting data if advanced production and financial management is going to occur.

“The commercialization of these technologies into production agriculture, I would say, is more difficult than the technology,” said Christie.

“All of these data systems have made their life more difficult. What we’re doing is bringing it all together.”

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  • ed

    Sound like a great snake oil sales chat but at the end of the day will make zero difference for the farm operation. Everybody has been down all these trails before. Many will go down them again at great cost to the farm and the farm manager as he tries to figure out how to use, what theory to apply, what software upgrades to keep buying, how to rationalize the purchase, wonders why all his lucky neighbors all got equal crops without it while spending more time with family at the lake in 2013, ditches it all and finally realizes that low supply is why his cattle neighbors are now doing so well and that could have happened without BSE if farmers were smart enough to reduce production in a agricultural world operating in a constant glut position. Do not forget that Cost of Production is “relative to”, and production increases are always rewarded by a greater than equivalent commodity price drop / increase in input prices which has the effect of driving up your COP. This is why supply managed portions of the ag business are the only sectors that have been making any net profit since nearly 35 years ago. It is on the chopping block however, so even that will soon be gone. In Europe when this happen to the Dairy industry, milk prices dropped in half and no technology prevented the fall out of the production increases that further diluted their prices. When the companies gained control of the industry by flooding the market to get rid of the farmers and putting milk prices up in the store, the voter / consumer / taxpayer had no appetite to put money towards these struggling farms. With the price of milk up the impression is that they must be doing well right. Not so! They all went broke. Consumer price up, some kids going without milk, real farmers gone forever, corporate profits up, mission accomplished. The farmers wanting for some reason to get rid of their marketing boards contribute willingly to their own demise only because they know so little about the process and how it will play out. It is not because they are not good producers but rather because of it.

    • Terry

      Hear hear! Well said Ed. But it is still farmers “responsibility” to keep all the industry around Ag profitable and “growing” Beware when you hear the term”Big” because that is the term that comes later. Big farms can have big losses too.


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