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Technology in Agriculture, Simplified

Small and Simple Information Versus Big Data


With all the focus on “big data” in Agriculture, are we forgetting about the small and simple information?

A couple conversations on Twitter over the last few weeks got me to thinking about what’s going on with all the data and information in Ag today. Yield mapping in the combine has become the norm, and in many cases we’re mapping planting, spraying, side-dressing, and other field operations as well. Plus beyond the maps, there’s the telemetry and machine performance data. So much data collected, but so little of it is accurate (which is improving rapidly) or even useful for anything. To what level does it really matter to a producer that one tractor is using 2% DEF of fuel and another is at 3%?

With that being said, I’m not trying to knock big data or telematics. There’s real promise in big data for Agriculture, but for most the costs (not just $$) don’t outweigh the benefits just yet. My point is, what about the small and simple information and what are we doing to document it? Almost all of us are carrying smartphones and sometimes tablets too; Let’s get the basic info down first.

A few examples of small and simple information

  • How many loads will fit in the wet corn holding bin after the window gets covered up
  • How lands plow in or out and where they end (for those few of us who still moldboard plow)
  • Exactly where tillage starts and stops in fields that have low muck areas, etc.. or how the depth needs to change field cultivating / disking
  • Where to slow down in a field to avoid damage from areas with many rocks
  • Which hose and electrical connector goes where when hooking up planter, etc.
  • Can a round fit in the combine hopper if it’s making good corn? (seriously, why isn’t there predictive / logistics software tell us and help us plan for stuff like this yet?)
  • What RPM does the irrigation motor run at? And how much to change it when the end gun is on
  • Which side of the field to start operations on depending on if wet / dry, entrances to use
  • Better define our own management zones within fields.. example: muck, clay, sand, red dirt, etc. Simple zones, maybe 3-5 per field or a few more depending on the size
  • Which order do you flip the electrical breakers on and off
  • What areas of the field typically work up in clods / require planter depth adjustments

Options for collecting small and simple information

While no perfect system exists for collecting all of this small and simple information, there are options. Obviously, there’s the old school pocket notebook, but those can’t be easily shared, get misplaced, and aren’t easy to keep organized. So that leaves us with a few different electronic options:

  • Cloud storage such as Google Drive or Dropbox
  • Note apps such as Google Keep or Evernote, or more specific apps for agriculture like Pioneer’s Encirca View or Precision Planting’s Climate FieldView
  • Scouting apps such as Trimble’s Connected Farm Scout and others
  • Some GIS / mapping programs have areas to take notes, but most are extremely limited or difficult to use

Some tips to make information collection faster and easier

  • If you aren’t the best at typing, utilize voice recognition
  • Collect information in the field quickly by not worrying about exact details or organization, those things can be fixed later, something is better than nothing
  • Write down information as you think about it, and enter electronically at a later date


Be sure to let me know your thoughts on twitter (@AaronBobeck) or in the comments below!

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