Big Data – is it just for big business?

 

A recent report from Agronomy for Sustainable Development in Australia, surveyed stakeholders in the agriculture industry, specifically focusing on the perceptions and discourse surrounding big data as it applies to agriculture.

The results identified two main perceptions that dominate current thinking:

  1. Big Data is only for big farming
  2. Big Data is for everyone in the industry.

Despite challenges and uncertainty, big data has the potential to benefit the whole supply chain. Farmers can use their data to apply the right products, at the right rates, and at the right time; distributors can use data to source inputs and position themselves for maximum advantage in the market; manufacturers can improve their means of production and better target their customer base.

Data usage is likely to be one of the biggest forces for change facing agriculture this century. Data driven supply chains can make agriculture more competitive – but the boosts granted will not just benefit those at the top level. Farmers will be empowered by the increased insight granted to them. Tighter specifications and traceability – made possible by data usage – will increase margins across the whole supply chain, by meeting the quality needs of local and international buyers. Increased oversight leads to higher outputs and boosts a business’ reputation, leading to more consistent returns and – crucially – increased profitability across the whole supply chain.

The last few years have seen a steady transition towards smart data usage in agriculture. More and more farms use data solutions to measure their performance, including variable rate soil pH control, variable rate nutrition, variable rate seeding, live in-line quality sampling. Many farmers are adopting an experimental and business-minded approach to utilizing solutions that work for them – testing and implementing one improvement at a time over multiple seasons.

For those in the tech industry, it’s sometimes easy to forget that technology and data are, essentially, just tools. Powerful tools, but tools nonetheless, with the ultimate aim of refining and driving efficiency to boost profit per Hectare. Whether it’s ensuring all a farm’s data is in one place or connecting operations systems to map profit at the field and paddock level, these previously elite tools are now available for everyone – and those that take advantage reap the rewards.

It’s an exciting time to be in agriculture. Data and technology are opening up new challenging and rewarding careers in Food and Agribusiness. Opportunities that in the past have been impeded by complexity and technology are now enabling farm experimentation and the delivery of real and proven value; per kilo, per tonne, per hectare. We are starting to see a transition toward data working for people – not the other way around.

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