• Data Science
  • Experfy Editor
  • MAY 12, 2014

Big Data Improves Farming with Advanced Agricultural Technology

A former data science organization has leveraged the inherent strength of agricultural data or “big data” to transform farm productivity. With expert recommendations from agricultural data analysts, the farmers now have the power to make informed decisions about using natural resources wisely, increasing farm yield, and retaining long-term viability of modern farming methods. The only roadblock that still worries the modern farmer is the issue of privacy surrounding their proprietary farming data.

The use of data science principles or big data technology in the field of agriculture is somewhat recent. Therefore, the apprehension of the entire farming community regarding adopting an unfamiliar technology is well understood. The biggest concern for the farmers at this point is exposing their expert knowledge to external analysis.

David Friedberg, CEO of The Climate Corporation, echoes this popular sentiment:

“The application of data science in agriculture is relatively new, and with the development of new technologies comes some level of uncertainty about its potential implications. In our experience, farmers are more likely to embrace new technologies that will drive the evolution of agricultural production when they have certainty about the use, privacy and control of the data they personally generate on their own farms. We want to immediately and transparently address some farmers’ concerns about data use and privacy, while advancing the conversation about industry standards that support farmers’ needs.”

In January this year, The Climate Corporation announced some groundbreaking policies on matters of privacy of data, which is available for public viewing at Guiding Principles on Data Privacy Issues.

The Climate Corporation: Its agricultural technology background

The Climate Corporation’s main business has been marketing technology products, and insurance products and services for farmers around the world. With these products and services, farmers have traditionally enabled their farming operations with powerful technological tools and services to enhance productivity and profit. The company’s flagship product, The Climate Technology Platform offers a suite of capabilities like local weather monitoring, agronomic modeling, and simulations of weather conditions to help farmers manage their risks and suitably prepare for adverse climatic situations in advance.

The Climate Corporation is enlisted as an authorized provider of the U.S. Federal crop insurance program. The company’s Total Weather Insurance product provides a set of risk-management tools along with a generous insurance coverage for poor weather conditions. A $3-trillion agriculture industry that is completely at the mercy of unpredictable climatic conditions is uniquely protected by the company’s advanced technologies to help stabilize the farming environment and guarantee profits.

The expectations of the farming community from data science

The comparative immaturity of big data analytics in the field of agriculture—combined with the recent flurry of newly emerging data technologies and tools—has made the modern farmers somewhat shaky about freely sharing their “hard-earned knowledge” with outsiders.  The members of the agricultural community are cozying up to revolutionary technology that promises enhanced farm output and more profit. What they actually expect is some hard evidence of technological claims.

To this end, the explicit conditions articulated by the farming community for them to adopt data science or big data technology have been:

  1. Farmers should have control over the data they provide for analytics.
  2. Farmers must have the ability to transfer data over different technology platforms.
  3. Farmers need to be briefed about the data usage in analytics
  4. Farmers must have a firm assurance that their shared data are protected from external intrusion.

The commitment of agricultural technology providers

When The Climate Corporation merged with Monsanto, a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products, the former’s well-established data technology-enabled agricultural system gained enhanced analytics capabilities to help farmers derive valuable, insights from their farming data.

The Climate Corporation promised the creation of an Open Agriculture Data Alliance (OADA), the principle objective of which is to act as an independent body overseeing the smooth interoperability, common data formats, and security and privacy standards across disparate technology or data sourcing platforms. This organization confirmed that if the farmers were provided a seamlessly integrated data-manipulation platform, then the farmers would use their authority to optimize farm yield, enhance conservation methods, and thus, increase the ROI of the technological infrastructure.

The new guiding principles of the The Climate Corporation’s agricultural technology products are:

  • Farmers are the sole owners of all data they generate: The farmers have full decision making power over who accesses their data, how they access it, and for what purpose. Farmers are also provided sufficient assurance on data protection and data privacy.
  • Farmers will be enabled with friendly tools to create, store, and access their data. Basic data services are provided free of charge.
  • Farmers will have access to technology to share their data across different data platforms free of charge. This technology enablement requires following industry standards that ensure consistent, data-collection methods and cross-platform, data transfer methods.

Mosanto’s President and Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann, believes that “as data science is applied to agriculture, The Climate Corporation understands and respects our need to earn the trust of our farmer customers.”

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