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‘Big Data’ Revolution Has Farmers Nationwide Concerned

American farmers from across the country are meeting in Washington to address the ‘big data’ revolution that is creating a growing uneasiness amongst farmers about how big seed companies are using sensors on tractors to gather data.

Farmers are concerned with the amount of data these sensors are collecting; sensors are being increasingly used to measure soil conditions, seeding rates, crop yields and many other variables, allowing companies to provide farmers with customized guidance on how to get the most out of their fields.

‘Big Data’ Revolution

John Deere combine

Farmers are growing concerned with the ‘big data’ revolution. Image Courtesy: John Deere Tractors

Seed companies want to use the ‘big data’ collected by the sensors to help farmers grow more food with the same amount of land, and the industry’s biggest brands have offered assurances that all information will be closely guarded.

But farmers are serving notice in Washington that the federal government might need to become involved in yet another debate over electronic security and privacy issues. Some members of Congress from rural states such as Kansas were already aware of the concerns, although the issue is new to many urban lawmakers.

Nick Guetterman, who farms roughly 10,000 acres of corn and wheat with his father and three brothers in eastern Kansas, already uses GPS technology and has been considering sending all his data to a specialized service. But he still has reservations about what a seed company or an equipment manufacturer will do with it.

I have not found it on my farm beneficial enough to pay them to analyze my data,” Guetterman said. “I either analyze it myself or do nothing with it.”

The American Farm Bureau, the nation’s largest and most prominent farming organization, illustrates how agriculture is cautiously entering a new era in which raw planting ‘big data’ revolution holds both the promise of higher yields and the peril that the information could be hacked or exploited by corporations or government agencies.

Farmers worry that a hedge fund or large company with access to “real-time” yield ‘big data’ from hundreds of combines at harvest time might be able to use that information to speculate in commodities markets long before the government issues crop-production estimates.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto and other corporations have tried to allay fears by reassuring farmers their data is secure and will not be used beyond providing services farmers request.

This season, growers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota can even buy for the first time a Monsanto “prescription” that offers a precise seeding recipe tailored to their soil type, disease history and pests.

The St. Louis-based company, which has dominated the bioengineered seed business for more than a decade, expects to expand its prescription services to other states. It calls the advancements the “Green Data Revolution”.

Farm equipment manufacturer John Deere has partnered with DuPont Pioneer to tout what it calls “Decision Services,” a system in which farmers upload data onto servers that respond by sending seed and fertilizer prescriptions directly to Deere tractors in the field.

‘Big Data’ Revolution Has Farmers Nationwide Concerned.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About Seth Barr


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