Judging the Value of Data

  • Feb 24, 2016
Judging the Value of Data
How many times have you heard the word “data” in relation to your farming operation over the last few years? Too many? A lot of salespeople are pushing their companies’ data with the pledge that it’s the best agronomic data around.

How do you know which data provider is worth considering? Here are three questions to ask when a person selling ag technology and data capabilities comes to your farm.

1. What kind of data is this?
Some companies offer crowd-sourced data, which is collected from a lot of farmers, aggregated, and then translated into some sort of conclusion about how those farmers should create their crop management plans. This is largely based on combine data, which is helpful for providing a summary of how an agronomic plan performed. But that data is from other farms. How does that apply to YOUR fields?

One way you can gain value from someone else’s data is to look at results from conditions similar to your fields. We use the aggregation of data from nearly 200 locations in the Answer Plot® Program, which are taken from a wide range of environments, see how hybrids respond to seeding population, crop rotation nitrogen levels and fungicide applications. For each attribute we assign a response score that we can then tie back to the specific attributes of your fields, which serves as the basis for developing an agronomic plan.

2. Is this data valid?
Crowd-sourced data can be rife with inaccuracies. For example, busy farmers may enter hybrid information into their planters incorrectly. On the other hand, field trials like those done using the WinField Answer Plot® Program test products multiple times — even those that directly compete with WinField products. Whatever ag data company you choose, make sure it considers data integrity as a given.

3. How does this data help manage variability in my fields?
Data from combines isn’t very specific. For example, it doesn’t tell you what the weather was in a particular month, and it doesn’t offer insight on the agronomic practices used in the field. Yet, this type of information — as well as geography, maturity zones, soil textures, irrigation and what’s occurred in previous years — should figure prominently into your decision-making process. The R7® Tool takes variability into account, letting you know exactly why a specific corn hybrid did well on a particular field. This is comprehensive, personalized data that takes variables into account; not data derived from highly generalized, non-controlled situations.

Asking these basic questions, and listening to the answers you receive, will no doubt generate more questions from you. Before you invest in technology or take a deeper dive into it, be sure your provider meets the needs you have today, as well as anticipates the needs you will have in the future.