Big Data is a hot topic at winter farm meetings this year. Many growers are concerned about how their data is being used, but one well-known economist says farmers should welcome Big Data, not fear it. Today, farmers collect a lot of data about their fields, their crops, and their farming operations. But who owns that data and how should it be used? Dr. Lowell Catlett, economist, futurist, and Dean of the College of Agriculture at New Mexico State University, says farmers should not fear big data or be afraid of sharing that data, “Today’s generation is all about sharing data. They share things on Facebook my generation would find appalling, but they see it differently.” He said sharing farm data can provide a valuable return, “If you share your data, we can get better information on where the insects are and where to spray to keep them out of your field. If you allow us to collect and aggregate that data.”
But Catlett urges growers not to give that data away. He told HAT, while collecting all this data can provide voluble insights, growers must maintain ownership and not be afraid to charge for their data, “In many cases, the data may be as valuable as the crop itself.” Catlett told the Bayer Crop Science Ag Issues Forum in San Antonio last week that the next big breakthrough in agriculture production may come as a result of our ability to analyze big data. He noted that technology is providing farmers with the ability to collect, organize, and analyze more data, more quickly, and that more than just about anything may change the way farmers farm in the future.