AGRICULTURE is on the information superhighway: The selection of precision agriculture technology available for farmers and agricultural suppliers is vast.
While a large number of farmers and the businesses that serve them are embracing precision agriculture technology, building a bridge to connect the different operating systems can be difficult.
Seamless data exchange across different brands of equipment and software programs is a roadblock for agriculture. Synchronizing data collected from competitors' systems can cause capability headaches and, frankly, can be a waste of valuable time.
Establishing common language and standardizing data exchange is the core mission of the AgGateway Precision Ag Council's Standardized Precision Ag Data Exchange (SPADE) Project. AgGateway members Joe Tevis, Randy Beard, Dennis Dagget and Chip Donahue presented the details of the SPADE Project at the InfoAg Conference July 17 in Springfield, Ill.
"We're talking about a huge step forward for precision agriculture — the ability for systems to 'talk' to each other," said SPADE Project chairman Tevis, director of agronomic products and services at Topcon Precision Agriculture.
AgGateway, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization of businesses serving the agriculture industry by working collaboratively to solve industry problems.
Randy Beard, ag retail council chair of AgGateway and agronomy input manager for River Valley Cooperative, explained that, as a retailer, the goal is to serve farmers and "assist them in using all this great technology to make a profit. Our business invests in the precision agriculture technology to collect the data. However, our staff spends precious time collecting data cards and converting the information from a variety of systems into user-friendly data for the grower. As a company, we struggle with delivering recommendations in a timely and proficient matter."
AgGateway members shared Beard's struggles and recognized the need to establish a framework that allowed simplified data exchange between different software applications and hardware systems across farming operations.
"The SPADE Project allows us to leave our company's hat at the door and work collectively to make data exchange smooth for all users," explained Donahue, AgGateway member and John Deere strategic alliance manager.
The SPADE Project was started in 2012 and is targeted to end with the implementation stage in 2014. The first phase, SPADE1, focused on seed operations, while the current phase, SPADE2, concentrates on crop protection and harvest operations.
"We want to prepare our farmers to work in the reality," said Daggett, AgGateway working group vice-chair and senior vice president of ProAg Insurance Group.
Federal regulations and interaction with government agencies are a given. For that reason, the SPADE committee reached out to government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in order to address future compliance reporting requirements for the grower.
Daggett explained that USDA, starting in 2007, began streamlining its agencies' business processes with the "Modernize & Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems" initiative.
As a result, this year, USDA implemented common acreage reporting dates that allow farmers participating in programs to report acreage required by two agencies — the Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency — just one time. In its continued effort at modernization, USDA anticipates that farmers' future compliance reporting for a program year will be completed online one time for all USDA agencies.
The work of the SPADE Project now is to build a strong foundation for farmers to more efficiently and accurately obtain information for future reporting requirements and be better equipped for potential compliance reviews (Flowchart).
The SPADE Project also seeks to bridge communication gaps within the industry and beyond. Thus, one task of the project is to develop a glossary of common terms that will be available on Wikipedia, a free, open-access, online encyclopedia, with a target release set for early 2014.
The AgGateway glossary will provide standard terms and serve as a definition resource to promote effective communication.
"We are trying to be the translator for agriculture," Daggett explained of the project.
Potentially, the standardization of electronic transfer will reduce the miscommunication and misinterpretation of data, especially between farmers and agricultural suppliers. In return, it will give all precision agriculture users the ability to extract more valuable information in a timely matter.
Tevis concluded that the ultimate goal of the SPADE Project is to make the farmer's life easier.