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Finding value in sharing farm data

By Jenna Lee and John Fulton

What will sharing my farm data accomplish and what is the value?

Many farmers may find themselves thinking about this very question as they weigh the benefits and drawbacks of sharing their farm data. The potential to realize value from data can often stem from sharing it via digital technologies to service providers or other consultants. In many cases, it may be necessary for a grower to share farm data with multiple entities in order to obtain the largest return on investment possible. While many simple solutions have been presented to farmers that make it easier than ever to share data, the benefits and tangible value of doing so have not been clearly or accurately conveyed.

Sharing data for use in collaborative tools may result in benefits such as:

  • Reducing the number of duplicate datasets generated or collected.
  • Innovative digital tools allow for drawing of site-specific information and learnings.
  • Allowing for one common data source that all decisions can be made from in order to eliminate confusion or inaccurate interpretation from outside sources.
  • Moving from collected data to actionable decisions quickly, and on-the-go.
  • Verifying original analyses and developing new insights from same data.
  • Generating trustworthy, data-backed answers and solutions for complex issues like water quality.
  • Identifying opportunities to improve efficiencies, reduce risk, and increase bottom line.
  • Empowering scientists and researchers to explore and develop new analyses.

Beyond these numerous benefits, growers may also find a tangible value in sharing their data by utilizing digital technologies. In an effort to determine that value, The Ohio State University, Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska surveyed 120 soybean producers. The producers surveyed owned a smartphone or tablet and were utilizing some sort of variable rate technology, suggesting that many had already started to implement digital technologies in their own operations and were using them for business decisions.

The study defined “digital technologies” as ag data tools that require the use of producer data to provide products, information, and recommendations. These tools can come in the form of mobile applications, web platforms, or agricultural technology provider managed services.

Farmer comments about using digital technologies and sharing data from the study include:

  • “Utilizing digital technologies allows me to make better decisions about inputs next year.”
  • “In a game of moving variables, there is a ‘peace of mind’ value that you are putting yourself in the best position for success.”
  • “I am raising a better quality [crop] by utilizing digital tools to understand what it requires for the current growing season.”
  • “There isn’t any one way to view all your information. The question is how do we use [digital tools] together to the best of our ability.”

By utilizing these technologies, growers were sharing their farm data in some form.

Results from the survey indicated that more than 92% of farmers are sharing data with at least one person, 66% are sharing with two or more people, and 34% are sharing with three or more people.

These farmers most commonly shared their data with agronomic consultants, seed sales representatives, retailers, university extension/researchers, crop insurance personnel, and marketing consultants. Over 60% indicated that they share data with both seed representatives and agronomic consultants. When farmers do make the decision to share data, more than two-thirds of them indicated that they have “high” or “very high” expectations that sharing their data will provide value to their operation.

Nearly all (96%) of survey respondents also revealed that data they are collecting is being used as a direct input for management decisions, and 91% are using some sort of digital technology or service. While each of the results discussed above provide some insight to the perceived value in terms of qualitative outcomes from sharing data, the survey also asked producers to quantify the value of digital technologies in terms of dollars per acre. All of the respondents selected an answer of $2.50 per acre or above.

While the option of $0 per acre was listed, none of the farmers selected this response. This clearly demonstrates that farmers who are utilizing digital technologies and sharing their data have found a significant benefit in their operations.

Find additional data resources and information on The Ohio State University’s Digital Ag website: digitalag.osu.edu.

 

Dr. John Fulton, Associate Professor, can be reached at fulton.20@osu.edu. Jenna Lee, Student Research Assistant, can be reached at lee.7210@osu.edu. This column is provided by the Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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