By Chrissy Dittmer
"Big Data," as the name implies, is getting to be a big deal. So much so that leading Iowa farm and commodity organizations are backing an ambitious project that will harness the power of agricultural data to the benefit of farmers.
The "Big Data Strategy and Implementation Plan," backed by Iowa AgState and developed by The Hale Group of Danvers, Mass., will begin immediately by obtaining all relevant facts about how agricultural data is collected, shared, analyzed and used.
Following this in-depth assessment, a strategy and action plan will be formulated by year's end, says Aaron Putze, communications director for the Iowa Soybean Association, which is a member of Iowa AgState. The strategy will enable farmers to better understand their own data, as well as get a handle on industry strategies and objectives for Big Data. The plan also aims to show farmers how best to capture the value of the data they produce without compromising proprietary information and intellectual property rights.
We hear a lot about it these days; What is Big Data?
The Hale Group defines Big Data as both structured and unstructured data whose scale, diversity and complexity require new techniques and analytics to manage, interpret and extract knowledge and value from it.
Brian Kemp, Iowa Soybean Association president and chairman of Iowa AgState, says Big Data isn't a new issue for agriculture. However, the ability to collect, interpret and manipulate data has increased exponentially, requiring immediate action.
"This project will be conducted at the strategic level addressing many components, namely data ownership and control," says Kemp, who farms near Sibley in northwest Iowa. "By harnessing the knowledge of existing data and how it can be used, farmers can influence policy more effectively, develop appropriate user and privacy agreements and drive mutually beneficial relationships with those whom we do business."
Kemp says the project will:
* Support the education of farmers on the opportunities presented by agricultural Big Data.
* Help farmers understand and evaluate the various Big Data business models offered by the industry and how to capture value from the data.
* Empower farmers as participants in the local, state and national level discussions on the issues of Big Data.
* Provide information that can be used to inform and influence Big Data policies, regulations and technology.
This Iowa initiative will complement other projects
Dean Lemke, nutrient management and environmental stewardship director for the Agribusiness Association of Iowa and member of the AgState Big Data task force, says the project will complement other regional and national projects focused on similar concerns and opportunities.
"The Hale Group has unique capabilities to do the work to benefit the greater industry," Lemke says. "They will do a thorough job of gathering information from many sources on the topic of Big Data, define what's most meaningful to farmers and how farmers can capitalize on it and then share these findings with all stakeholders. Ultimately and collectively, a better understanding and use of data will help farmers continuously improve. It will also give farmers a voice and leverage in matters that affect their business."
Bob Ludwig of The Hale Group says farmers do not want to "stop Big Data" but want to influence the way it's developed and rolled out to growers. "It will bring great benefits to agriculture and the world at large," he says. "But it needs to be monitored to make sure it's fair to farmers."
About AgState: Formed in 1997, Iowa AgState involves leadership of all segments of Iowa agriculture to develop a proactive, futuristic vision for Iowa agriculture and an action plan to help make that vision a reality. Members include: Agribusiness Association of Iowa; Iowa State Dairy Association; Midwest Dairy Association; Iowa Cattlemen's Association; Iowa Corn Growers Association; Iowa Corn Promotion Board; Iowa Farm Bureau Federation; Iowa Institute for Cooperatives; Iowa Pork Producers Association; Iowa Poultry Association; Iowa Soybean Association; Iowa State University; Iowa Turkey Federation; Iowa Economic Development Authority; and Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship. AgState is currently chaired by Iowa Soybean Association president Brian Kemp of Sibley.
About The Hale Group: The Hale Group, a food and agribusiness consulting firm headquartered in Danvers, Mass., helps clients meet the demands of a rapidly changing environment. With its industry as well as functional expertise, it collaborates with clients to gain perspective on challenges and then transform strategies, culture and organizational structures to capitalize on opportunities.
Chrissy Dittmer is a Wallaces Farmer intern.