What Is the Future of Farm Data?

With the start of the new year and decade for that matter, there have been all sorts of lists and articles about the advancements within agriculture and what the future might hold. This is also an interesting point to be looking ahead not just because of the new decade, but also because we are in what has been described as an inflection point where the forces interacting will have long lasting impact on the agriculture industry.

As customer trends change, with the average consumer looking for food that has the perception of being grown in a more sustainable manner, that is also in some way offsetting climate change. As well as new products coming to market that could influence what people eat, potentially reducing the demand for meat in developed countries. Additionally, increased focus on what inputs are used to raise a crop; from fertilizers, tillage practices, and crop protection chemicals. These inputs are beginning to be more tightly regulated forcing dramatic changes to farm operations in many parts of the world.

The forces mentioned so far are all just within the relatively small ag industry, other forces like the data privacy and security issues coming to a head with some of the largest companies in the world like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft will also undoubtedly influence our market as well. A growing push for renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuels is also gaining momentum. We also see new technologies coming to the consumer market from autonomous ride sharing vehicles to high bandwidth connectivity with 5G. And we cannot forget the globalization of markets, resulting in trade wars and new export opportunities with people around the world moving from low income to be middle class resulting in a shift in what they like to eat. All of this is occurring with the backdrop of a skilled labor shortage across many levels of the agricultural supply chain pushing many farm operations to look more and more at robotics and autonomous solutions that in themselves have the potential to further re-shape modern agriculture.

Trying to weigh the timing, impacts, and interactions of these and other trends to predict where the industry will be in the next 10 or even 3 years is no simple task. We thought about putting together a list of mainline trends influencing the focus areas of the ADC and providing guesses on where things are heading. However, after additional thought, we realized it might be more interesting to get feedback from all of you since there is no shortage of expert predictions. To help narrow the focus, we want to see what everyone thinks about the future of data, specifically the data generated during the course of normal farming operations.

We at the ADC believe it is going to be a key ingredient, if not the cornerstone, of many of these trends going forward. For example, sustainability reporting mentioned above, likely doesn’t work without documenting what was done to grow a crop, similarly meeting regulatory reporting requirements will require some data, too. Other new sources of revenue like carbon sequestration credits or more identity preserved products will also need data. Additionally, with more use of artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning to inform decisions about what seeds, chemicals, and fertilizers to use – with autonomous machines – data collection will also be required.

When thinking about these trends, we would like to get a little insight into where you the farmers, service providers, agronomists, and equipment suppliers think things are headed. In addition to where things are going it would be interesting to get an idea of what is being done today to maybe indicate if there are things that we as an industry should, or should not be doing with data. So take a minute to give us a little feedback in this poll by April 15 and in our next article we will share the results to hopefully provide a little insight into where things are headed and what we should be doing to prepare for an industry that will certainly look a lot different than today in the next 5 to 10 years. Please take our poll >>