Selected tag(s): technology

Why privacy is an essential piece of agriculture’s big-data revolution

Data science in farm management is one of the biggest trends to hit both agriculture and Silicon Valley in recent years, with an explosion of technologies emerging to help farmers optimize everything from seeding to irrigation to fertilizer application.

As ag tech products grow more sophisticated, so too has the innovation trend evolved. What began as a slew of single-purpose tools has now evolved to include apps that integrate different types of information to give farmers a “dashboard” view of their land. And it includes new apps that can help multiple farmers pool their data to analyze a crop’s performance across a range of growing conditions, or to benchmark their input costs against one another.

The agriculture sector stands to gain insight from all this data. Farmers need metrics to help them figure out how to increase yields sustainably while improving soil health and protecting natural resources for future generations.

But they have valid concerns about sharing data. Read More »

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Farmers' voices are essential to figuring out sustainability. Let's listen up.

The corn and soybean fields that stretch for miles across the Midwest are quiet this time of year, mostly frozen surfaces waiting for the spring planting season.

Although many farmers are not in the field dawn to dusk during the winter, they are still plenty busy. Between planning for the next season, taking care of animals and attending countless meetings, farmers are seldom idle even if their crop fields are.

But lucky for us, winter does afford more time to talk.

One friend from Iowa who works hard to use fertilizer efficiently to avoid runoff and optimize plant uptake of nutrients said he worries that food companies don’t always recognize the sustainability efforts of mainstream farmers. Too often, he said, it seems food companies look for simple labels like organic.

A soybean grower I know from Ohio who has invested a lot of time learning farming practices that will help restore nearby Lake Erie told me it is a constant struggle to balance making a living with repairing decades of agricultural nutrient runoff that have imperiled the health of the lake. Read More »

Posted in Fertilizer, Food, Partnerships, Supply Chain, Sustainable Agriculture| Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Read 3 Responses

Who will protect farmers’ privacy in the big data boom?

shutterstock_171929321When it comes to technology and agriculture, policymakers are wrestling with the role government should play in protecting the intellectual property rights and privacy of farmers.

This discussion came to a head recently when the House Agricultural Committee held a hearing to examine the impacts of “big data” on the entire agricultural life cycle. With farmers and companies collecting and storing data on everything from fertilizer rate to yield to soil conditions, there are important concerns to consider: Is the data secure? Who owns analyzed data? Will companies sell the data to others or make new products based on sensitive information?

Ahead of this hearing I wrote a blog post detailing the hurdles farmers must overcome to fully integrate data as a way to increase the abundance and sustainability of modern food production. The main challenges I highlighted were:

  • Privacy: Farmers need to know they won’t be willingly revealing trade secrets when deciding to share data about their farming techniques.
  • Format: Not all data collection platforms use the same language, so a uniform way to understand what is being collected must be created.
  • Complexity: Many growers are intimidated by the vast quantity of data they collect, so we have to help them understand what matters and what doesn’t.

Read More »

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How to overcome big data’s barriers

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Credit: Flickr user Marcos Gasparutti

As I wrote earlier this week, data analytics technology has the potential to dramatically change the way we produce food, making it more abundant and sustainable. But a number of obstacles remain.

Here’s how we can address some of the biggest challenges and hasten ag’s big data revolution for the benefit of people and the planet.

1. Protecting privacy

Many growers have told me they are willing to share data – if they know exactly where it’s going and how it will be used, and if they can benefit from the data analysis that occurs. However, big concerns remain about data being used for regulatory compliance purposes, given to rival farmers, or shared with seed and fertilizer companies that would gain a competitive advantage. Read More »

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Ag’s big data explosion can benefit the environment too

Almost daily, I see new stories on how agribusinesses, entrepreneurs, and traditional technology companies are making big investments in precision agriculture tools and digital platforms that collect data from farms.

These data include information such as fertilizer rate, prescription accuracy, yield by square foot, seed type, and soil type. When analyzed at a large scale, the data can determine best practices for farm operations to maximize yield and minimize input costs.

This is an exciting trend, with big and small companies alike getting into the data game, and the tools used to collect this data becoming ubiquitous. And although these technologies weren’t necessarily started with sustainability in mind, they have tremendous potential to benefit the environment. Read More »

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3 ways drones can help take agriculture to new sustainability heights

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A drone collects data while in flight. Photo credit

Drone technology has been around for decades, taking to the skies to capture movie sequences, collect scientific data and scout territory. But there’s another industry where drones are really beginning to take off: farming.

Agriculture is on tap to make up 80 percent of the market for unmanned aircrafts in the next couple of decades. With the invention of newer, more effective technologies, drones have the potential to launch the agriculture industry into a future of sustainability.

Rules of the sky

In February of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed long-awaited rules on the commercial use of small drones in the agricultural sector. The new regulations require operators to be certified, fly only during daylight and keep their aircraft in sight. Although this proposed legislation could take one or two years for final adoption, it marks a major step for the industry, as the guidelines provide the formal structure needed to legitimize drone use and advance the market for their production.

Although drone technology is still modifying production to increase ease of use and lower prices, these machines already have the potential to go a long way towards improving farmers’ bottom lines – and the environment. Here are three key benefits of drone use in agriculture: Read More »

Posted in Fertilizer, Sustainable Agriculture, Water| Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Read 2 Responses

Pill holds promise for reducing fertilizer’s unwanted side effects

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Future fertilizer pill would detect signals from plant roots to reduce nutrient losses. Photo credit: Liz Bokt

Can a little pill solve the problem of fertilizer waste? It sounds futuristic, but it could become a reality in the next 10 years, according to recent article on AgWeb.com.

The article highlighted new developments in nanotechnology aimed at creating a “fertilizer pill” that could detect chemical signals from plant roots and release nitrogen according to those signals. The pill would allow for nitrogen to be released on an as needed basis, thereby reducing fertilizer waste byproducts that are harmful to the environment.

Although fertilizer has undeniable benefits for crop yields, excess fertilizer that runs off into our waterways is damaging to rivers, oceans and the climate.

Read More »

Posted in Climate, Ecosystems, Fertilizer, Sustainable Agriculture| Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments are closed
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