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What Data is Being Collected on the Farm and Who Can You Trust With It?

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Purdue Ag Economics Assistant Professor Dr. Nathan DeLay

Purdue University hosted the National Conference for Food and Agribusiness last week. The theme for the conference was data on data. Food retailers, food manufacturers, ag retailers, food processors, and farmers were all surveyed about how and why they collect data and use it.

Ag Economics professor Dr. Nathan DeLay shared results from the farmers survey that included those who farm over 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans.

“Data collection is pretty common. Most farms in our sample are collecting either yield monitor data, or soil sampling data, or satellite drone imagery data. And what we see is if they’re collecting it, most are saying that the decisions that they make from the data are at least somewhat influenced by it. And they’re saying that if they made a decision, it’s had a positive yield impact.”

DeLay says the research showed that, as you might imagine, larger operations are more likely to collect data. In addition to that, “We see that operations with younger operators are more likely to collect data, and we see that operations with more highly educated employees are more likely to collect data. And then we looked at, ‘What are the management practices and tools that these operations are channeling that data through?’ We see that a lot are using software platforms and we’re seeing that a lot are sharing with agronomists and input suppliers.

Much has been made about who you can trust with your data and what it might be used for. Ceres Solutions COO Doug Brunt participated in a panel discussion about how ag retailers are using farmer data, reassuring farmers that send them data.

“The grower owns the data, especially on all their field records and those kinds of things. What we’re trying to emphasize more, not only are we collecting that so we can help them make a better decision, but that’s their information.”

DeLay says the research looked at seeding rate decisions, drainage investment decisions, and fertilizer and nutrient management decisions. Of those three, fertilizer and nutrient management decisions were most heavily informed by data collected.

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