WHILE precision agriculture technology has been installed and utilized on U.S. farms since the mid-1990s, farmers and the agriculture industry in general struggle with managing the data collected.
Agribusiness professionals often encourage growers to save the data to assist in making personalized management decisions about the farming operation, yet very few actually take the time to properly save and/or use the information collected.
In order to understand the barriers the agriculture community faces when managing and sharing data across different precision agriculture programs, the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service last winter surveyed farmers in the Midwest and southern U.S., along with agricultural professionals nationwide.
The survey, "Data Management at the Farm Level," focused on one question: "What are the needs related to data management at the farm level in order to make it more successful and valuable?"
Topping the list of farmers' responses was automatic and seamless wireless data transfer between machines and web-based, open-source database or cloud-stored data. They said it's essential for the data to be stored in one location.
The growers also desired simpler and user-friendly programs that have ample resources to help them. Programs need to provide quick-start guides that assist users on how to get started or reacquaint them with the program from year to year.
A standardized data format collected from different brands that is easy to access from smartphones, tablets and other portable devices is also important to farmers.
The agricultural professionals surveyed, which included precision agriculture specialists and agronomy consultants, agreed that programs are too complex and not compatible in order to be used by all farmers. Also, for some older-generation farmers, the adoption of precision agriculture technology is challenging.
The professionals said a small percentage of growers with whom they engage actually have a plan or goal for using the data collected. In order to take full advantage of the precision agriculture technology capabilities, it is important for users to be dedicated in analyzing the data.
All participants in the survey agreed that a collaborative effort across precision agriculture brands to improve seamless data exchange and develop a universal dictionary is needed in order to foster wider adoption of the technology at the farm level.
Synchronizing data exchange and establishing common language for the industry are the core missions of the AgGateway Precision Ag Council's Standardized Precision Ag Data Exchange project. One of the organization's project goals is to release a universal glossary of terms online early in 2014 (Feedstuffs, July 22).