Monday, November 7, 2016

Corn, Wheat, Tobacco, and Big Data?

After reading Louis Columbus’ work, can big data can improve productivity within the agricultural world?  These Goliath machines known as John Deere tractors can be unmanned within these monstrous machines.  These self-driving John Deere tractors can cover 2,000 acres of farmland.  As big data becomes more part of our daily routine, farmers are starting to become more accustomed to digital farming.  Farmers can also use a unique new software, which will map and find underground water sources.  Ultimately, farmers can collect and analyze the data and find a suitable spot to grow crops, such as corn, tobacco, wheat, etc.  The use of big data may also assist farmers in reducing input, but increasing output, and eventually increase profits .  On the other hand, Bayer has invested (approximately $62 billion) in Monsanto, an American agricultural biotechnology corporation.  That would mean Bayer should “identify and provide the best-suited seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals” for farms globally. 
Although investing in something like this may be beneficial, we should certainly consider the costs.  For instance, obtaining the software to map out the land can range in the thousands range for costs.  Also, there will be a huge learning curve that several of these farmers may not have the background knowledge of software.  Thus, it will be a barrier between man and information technology.  I would also like to consider another factor, which Columbus didn’t address, is labor.  If unmanned machines can tend to our crops, there will certainly be a decrease in labor because there won’t much high of a demand.  However, some may argue that we can educate those who don’t have the skills to handle software.  Another issue I wanted to point out is this link that I have found below.  Mary Kay Thatcher, Senior Director of the Congressional Relations American Farm Bureau Federation points out the potential risks of big data in the American agricultural realm.  For instance, the service agreement must be enforced before the data is shared, distinguishing what data needs to be protected, how the receiving party will keep that data and information confidential and private, and lastly ensure if the receiving party understands the data.   There are other unresolved problems many farmers face when using big data.  Companies can use the data and information collected for marketing purposes, in which they know how much crops a farmer has produced.  In addition, many advertising tech developers can salvage and use the information provided and sell information to gain a competitive advantage over other firms. 

Is it a good idea for farmers to welcome such innovation?  Perhaps… Columbus only saw this at the glass half-full.  Although she may have seemed cynical in the video, Ms. Thatcher brings up some unresolved issues that may be a barrier between the farmer and his precious data and information.  We can’t rush to a conclusion in saying using big data will benefit everyone in the end.

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