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Taming Data Overload

For the past couple of months, a significant chunk of my professsional efforts here have been dedicated to getting a handle on data platforms in agriculture.

Retailers, agricultural consultants and farmers, not to mention manufacturers and equipment dealers have been expressing their own personal frustration in trying to understand what each platform does and does not do, and how they fit together. And I’ve always nodded, trying to provide aid and comfort to whoever’s talking to me.

But I really had no idea the breadth of offerings was so substantial until I started digging in.

I’m not a masochist — I’m simply trying to put together a valuable, relevant day-long educational session that attempts to cover the big issues with data platforms: what’s out there, what works, what needs more work and where is agriculture headed as far as data management. This first event in what we are calling the PrecisionAg Innovation Series is called, “Data Platform Solutions: Putting Knowledge To Work,” and is being held on August 31 at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign, IL. I welcome you to view the most up to date agenda on our Website at

It got complex in a hurry — so much so that I employed a couple of consultants to help with the event preparations and proceedings: Jim Budzynski of Macrogain Partners and Lisa Prassack of Prassack Advisors.

From the broadest, omnibus data offerings down to the more niche systems such as imagery and weather, the companies that offer a platform either as their core business or as a component of a larger business number around 100. And while the focus is generally farmer-based or retailer-based, some can work either way.

If you’re still sorting out your approach to managing data, this is a conference I would encourage you to attend. Panel discussions will dig into the bigger picture issues with data and data platforms from both the manufacturer’s and grower’s perspectives, and data platform companies will have an opportunity to briefly present their offerings to the attendees. We’re also leaving enough room for networking and exchange during and after the conference.

Our approach to data as the growers’ trusted adviser is absolutely critical. I was reminded of it last night watching TV, and seeing a commercial for Hellman’s Mayonnaise extolling the virtues of ingredients that, in the words of one grower featured on the spot, “farmers committed to responsibly sourced oils.” Adds a young woman at a farmers market, “and blended with ingredients such as cage-free eggs!”

The commercial is the tip of a very deep iceberg, a sustainability initiative from food processor, Unilever. These initiatives are, at their core, driven by the collection of valid field data, and retailers will need to play a key role in the process.

If you’re working through your data platform strategy, I hope to see you in Champaign next month.

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