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Data in agriculture: a new era

  • 19 May 2022
  • 1700
  •  press-release

During the sixth session of Nation in Conversation at Nampo Bothaville, Theo Vorster talked to data and technology specialists about managing and using data to improve efficiencies and decision making on the modern farm.

The panel for this discussion was made up by Gerhard van der Burgh (BFAP), Estelle Lubbe (The Awareness Company), Alf White (Senwes) and Stehan Cloete (John Deere AME)

Making data work for you

According to Theo Vorster the average grain farmer makes about 40 critical decisions during a season that directly impacts their profitability. In light of this data needs to be accessible and efficient to aid in the decision making process.

Data by itself is nothing, explained White. According to him it needs to go through a process to become intelligence and only from there on you can start working with it to create predictive models. It is within this sphere that data then becomes an asset that can be utilised for decision making.

Similarly, Lubbe is of the opinion that data needs to be transformed in order to relate a story to producers that can be easily interpreted and implemented. It should also be kept in mind that producers aren’t data specialists or analysts and therefore insights should be presented as more than mere line graphs.

Bridging the data gap

All the panellists are in agreement that South Africa is still subject to a great data divide.

According to Lubbe a massive untapped segment of data in agriculture is the missing data from the past. This untapped data is according to Van der Burgh not a mere data gap but rather a void, like the Grand Canyon. Furthermore, he is of the opinion that time will be needed to build the data up from the ground and into the architecture – something that represents a massive opportunity to the sector.

“As a farmer you are expected to be everything on the farm, from the HR director to the operations and finance manager, and now the pressure is on to also be able to interpret all the data generated,” says Cloete and adds that producers should decide early on what they want technology to unlock for them on the farm.

Data sharing is beneficial to everybody

Lubbe elaborated that the misperception of data security and trust is one of the biggest problems within the data industry.

In the case of John Deere, Cloete explained that in South Africa 2 500 machines provide the company with real-time data pieces on a daily basis. This process aided in overcoming the trust issue through the collection of machine data opposed to financial or operational data.

In advising producers on the utilisation of data technologies, White said if producers want to contribute towards the further development of data and data platforms, they need a mindset that is more willing to share their data.

In reaction hereto Lubbe said that it should be noted that if more than one person is utilising the same data solution, it actually develops at and exponential rate. She also said that producers should not be biased towards protecting their intellectual property (IP) since data sharing is beneficial to everybody.

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