How Can Big Data Positively Affect Farming?

Can data positively change one of the world's staple industries?


Generally, when people think about farming, the images that spring to mind are of a traditional, low-tech industry. They think of fields of crops or barns full of sheep, not vast swathes of data and algorithms to process it all.

However, unbeknownst to the majority of the public, the farming industry has quietly been utilizing big data in significant and impactful ways over the past decade.

One of the major projects is through the attempt to improve the crop yields of arable farming.

One of the ideas behind this is that through tracking the exact origins of particular crops and the amount of yield compared to the amount of land used means that the effectiveness of the methods on yield size can be established.

It is not only a theory that using Big Data can create significant results either. The dairy industry in the Netherlands were one of the early adopters of Big Data and now have the highest margins in the world.

One of the companies at the forefront of this is F4F, based in the UK. Their CEO Nick Evans, gave an example of the cotton industry; The bails of cotton are tagged with RFID chips, which are then registered when they leave the farm and again when they arrive at the weigh bridge. It means that the exact yield from the farm can be found.

With this information it is possible to either share the practices from other farmers to increase this, or share their information with others to help them.

According to Mr Evans, ‘You have to take the farmers data, soil type, soil analysis and historic yields, and layer that data with weather, so you can predict with a degree of accuracy the [most efficient] timing and application of seed, fertilizer and chemicals’.

This kind of adoption is only going to be a good thing as the world population increases, so too does the demand for crops and food amongst this growing population. Improving crop yields is going to be one of the most effective ways of keeping up with demand.


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