Big Data Helps Growers Produce More
Given changing climates and softening commodity prices, farming these days is a difficult business. “It’s very precise and it’s very technical,” grower Ward Van Dyke explains. “One mistake can cost you a lot of money.”
Big Data is one way to take the guess work out of farming. Growers have long relied on data to make informed decisions. But thanks to new data capture tools, inexpensive storage options, and sophisticated analytics, growers can make use of large, complex data sets to maximize yield and minimize risks on their farms. In fact they can even optimize planting, for example, “down to the yard,” as Business Insider put it in a recent article.
Because information and technology are most valuable when they fit the way growers farm, DuPont Pioneer developed products like EncircaSM Services that combine the latest technology for weather, soils, agronomy and analytics to help growers make decisions about farm inputs.
For example, through collaboration with the University of Missouri and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EncircaSM Services from DuPont Pioneer provide growers with a 3-D high-resolution view of their soils, showing depth, texture, organic matter content and water-holding capacity. These details help growers make more informed decisions about nitrogen and fertility inputs, compared to publicly available soil maps.
EncircaSM Services also helps growers decode the information by providing access to certified service agents, who can help translate data using powerful analytics into specific actions that growers can take to improve efficiency and profitability. They’ll even walk the fields with their customers to help them translate big data into improved productivity.
Growers put those insights to work on their farms by using high tech farm equipment. Yield monitors in combines, for example, are able to create GPS-oriented yield records in real time during harvest. These yield maps can inform fertilizer needs as well as future planting plans.
Even growers’ mobile phones and tablets have been empowered with technology advances. Apps such as Pioneer® GrowingPoint™ agronomy allow growers to access valuable agronomic information on-the-go. A full 60 percent of them now use precision data services, according to a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation. These innovative, data-driven programs use historical data coupled with new data capture and predictive analytics to help growers maximize crop yields and reduce risk, unlocking the full potential of their land.
That boost in productivity will be timely. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “to meet increased demand, FAO projects that global agricultural production in 2050 will be 60 percent higher than in 2005/07.” More than 90 percent of this increase is expected to come from yield increases and advances in productivity.
But the power of big data to alleviate food security concerns can extend beyond the farm gate too. Worldwide food waste — estimated at 30 percent by Farm Credit Canada — begins at the point of consumption and continues through every stage. Lowering that single number could bolster the world’s food supply. Here again, data analytics can help — by forecasting consumption and production trends, optimizing logistics and making marketing decisions more precise.
The opportunity to address the needs of a growing population through big data are seemingly endless.