Farmers Make Big Data Work for Them

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Knowledge really is power, and as data science becomes more intertwined with the agriculture industry, farmers have more and more questions about the vast amount of data they generate each year.

An emerging sector of farmers can monetize their data with services from companies like Monsanto or Pioneer. Those services aggregate field-level data together from different areas and make crop management recommendations.

That kind of arrangement has prompted the question of who owns the data, and what happens to it once it's off a farmer's land. But one coalition of Iowa farm groups, called AgState, is asking: how else can farmer data benefit farmers?

Iowa Soybean Association President and AgState Chair Brian Kemp says just one example is that data gathered through research groups like ISA's On-Farm Network can better inform public policy.

He says, "We have done a large number of studies on nitrogen use, and nitrogen use is a very hot topic legislatively. So, when it comes time to make decisions, for legislators to make decisions regarding nitrogen management or manure management. We have actual on farm data that show what our different practices and the effect of the different practices and that certainly makes for more realistic legal decision making. And eventually, sometimes it finds its way into regulations and this certainly helps guiding the regulation system."

AgState plans to publish a report later this year assessing how agricultural data is currently used, and will follow it with a strategy for farmers and industries to best use that data with privacy in mind.

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