By Map of Ag
Farms generate a huge amount of data and this volume is growing exponentially. However, generating insights and value from this data will, in many cases, include data sharing. The originator of the data – in most cases the farmer – retains ‘control’ over that data and can ‘permission’ it to be shared and used by partners in the whole supply chain. However, farmers are understandably still cautious about sharing what for many is seen as their competitive advantage - how they farm their land.
“It is all about value and better decision making”, said Andy Venables from Hills Green Farm in Cheshire and a guest speaker at the Map of Ag fringe event at the conference. “Data is nothing without good interpretation and analysis”, he went on and showed during his presentation how he uses copious amounts of analytics to optimize his entire dairy operation. “We can connect now right through to the milk processor and retailer, which gives us a big advantage in the supply chain”.
During the following moderated discussion, Jim Williams, Head of Market Research at Map of Ag, emphasised that by sharing their data, farmers can generate more value than through their data alone. “True value is generated when data from multiple sources is layered together. Most farmers would struggle to organize this by themselves, which gave Map of Ag the idea to create a farmer owned entity which will facilitate data sharing in an independent and secure environment, returning a significant portion of the value generated back to the farmers who contributed their data, either as cash or redeemable vouchers”.
Clive Blacker, recently appointed Head of Business Development in EMEA countries for Map of Ag, sees the use of data as “the next big frontier in agriculture”. “Data and analytics will change how we farm our land”, he went on. “It is truly transformational, especially when we can share data and information”.
James Husband, a veterinary consultant within Map of Ag, sees the link through the supply chain to the retailers as the key to success in the dairy industry. “The retailers and the broader supply chain define the requirements for milk production. Data associated with that produce will help define its quality and differentiate it from competitive offerings, as well as enabling the processors to optimally manage supply and demand, thereby being better able to control costs and pricing”.
Farmers clearly still have questions about data security and Map of Ag answers this issue confidently. “We follow a concept of data control whereby farmers retain control over what happens to their data at all times”, said Jim Williams. “Secure data is part of our business model, so we take it extremely seriously.”
Andy Venables closed out the discussion by pointing out that technology is there for farmers to use to make their lives easier, to make farming operations more profitable and to help protect the soil and environment farmers are entrusted to look after. “As farmers, we have to get to grips with these new technologies and learn how to make better decisions as a result”. “The best way to cope with everything from the forage shortages as we had last Spring, to this coming Spring’s uncertainties surrounding Brexit, is to collect and use data and analytics. It is, after all, sitting at our fingertips. We just have to use it”.