case in the field

For the final part in our Big Ag Series, we’re covering modern day concerns. You already know what Big Data is and why you should be implementing it in your growing operation, but many growers still have major concerns about the security and confidentiality of the data that’s collected. If you’re concerned about Big Data, you’re not alone. Some of the most common, and important, questions that come up around Big Data analytics include:

  •    Who owns the data that’s collected?

  •    What uses of private data are allowed in the commercial and retail environments?

  •    How is data secured and protected from unauthorized access and distribution?

  •    Could the information that comes from Big Data analytics affect the market prices of crops and necessary supplies?

  •    How can equal access to public data be provided and protected?

  •    Who bears the cost of Big Data collection and analytics?

  •    Who gets the profits that come from this technology

  •    What happens if the technology breaks down unexpectedly?

There’s a lot of discussion that still needs to take place before Big Data is a mainstream and accepted part of the agriculture world. Here are six of the most essential questions that most likely will fuel the ongoing discussion of agricultural Big Data implementations.

#1. Ownership
Many growers believe they own the rights to the data collected in their fields, but the lines can be blurred depending on how the information was collected. Agreements that were made between precision agriculture service providers and their clients are also a factor. Growers may seem to have the best claim to the information collected directly from their own farms. However, data is often combined with information from many other sources, complicating the ownership issue. Other stakeholders who are in the mix may include:

  •      Seed manufacturers
  •      Fertilizer and pesticide companies
  •      Other growers in the same geographical area
  •      Vendors in the agribusiness industry
  •      Companies that perform market analysis for investors

While the specific data sets that come from a particular farm may be considered the property of that operation, the aggregate data may be used in many different ways by the service provider and may even be sold to commercial enterprises to boost profitability for these companies.

#2. Security
Security also plagues public and private collection of data. Encrypted transmission methods and protection of server space are just the tip of the iceberg. Long-term storage and archiving of data both present very valid concerns. Transmitting analysis results can also present the risk of data interception and misuse by unauthorized parties.

#3. Privacy
Because public data collection involves removing personally identifiable information, the Big Data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies is generally free of privacy concerns.

#4. Equal Access
Many rural areas don’t have the advanced technological infrastructure that’s needed to see success in precision farming and Big Data implementations. Not to mention, these areas often don’t have the public resources needed to achieve the same level of results that their larger urban counterparts do. Recent federal initiatives are intended to address these issues and deliver more support for rural farming enterprises.

#5. Cost-Benefit Issues
The high cost of Big Data implementations can be a barrier for smaller farming operations. As more growers begin to adopt the technology, however, the cost of these services is bound to go down.

#6. Technological Concerns
Lack of knowledge about modern computing techniques and fears about the possibility of system failure or inaccurate information can create obstacles for growers who hope to implement Big Data strategies. Worries about downtime and lack of tech support can breed doubt when they consider Big Data implementation.

The question of Big Data analytics in the field of agriculture is not if it will happen, but when. As more large-scale operations take on these challenges, the benefits will become glaringly obvious, and growers who fail to adopt similar strategies are probably going to be at a serious disadvantage in the competitive marketplace. By taking the first steps toward Big Data implementation, you can stay ahead of the curve and ready for success in the future.


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