Collecting data and generating practical business intelligence out of it is going to be one of the biggest competitive differentiators in the coming decade. Adam Lesser writes for Gigaom Research about how farms are unexpectedly taking the initiative in this regard. The best thing that ever happened to your favorite supermarket’s produce department could be somebody’s 32 GB RAM computer.
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Feeding billions of people and cleaning up the environment are actually two places where IT can stand to coordinate a lot of good. Among the places that technology is helping out are applying automation software to management tools, using field sensors to measure soil optimization and detect for pests, and bolstering risk management tools. Where does benchmarking come into this? Lesser explains:
But one potentially overlooked area in the big data-big ag play relates to benchmarking. Often farmers have no idea how their yields compare to neighboring farmer’s [sic] or even across different areas of a large scale farm. Knowing that a specific part of a farm is only performing at the 35th percentile relative to a benchmark of say soybean yields lets a farmer know that a portion of their farm needs adjusting. It also creates an impetus to find out why neighboring farms might be outperforming it in terms of yield. This data can guide everything from seed selection to fertilizer choice.
The business Farmlink is benchmarking patches of field down to the level of 150 square feet, providing a visibility service where farmers can see how they compare with each other one patch at a time. It maintains its integrity by not aligning with any other businesses or making recommendations on what farmers should do with their land; privacy is especially important in this industry, when farmers are suspicious of much bigger players marching in and wiping out their livelihood. What is left behind then is just a wealth of good data, to be used tactfully for further success.
You can read Lesser’s full article here: http://research.gigaom.com/2014/10/data-analytics-benchmarking-and-agriculture/