What is “My Data”
Data is records of things that happen. “My data” is therefore “my records of things that happen”. The medium in which this data is recorded can vary from your memories of events to written records of planting dates on precision ag maps to web services for weather and soil information. It’s things like employee history, taxes, financial projections, work logs, aerial pictures, application records, and yield maps. When you’re exaggerating about your best corn yield this year with your friends at the coffee shop, you’re sharing data. In other words, “data” is so generically defined that it’s sometimes hard to find things that cannot be thought of as “data”. Heck, the quantum physicists even tell us a rock is really just “data” if you look deeply enough, albeit data that really messes up my combine if it runs through the rotor.
Unfortunately, in the daily life of a farmer, the practical meaning of “data” is “hassle.” We spend lots of time importing, exporting, backing up, trading USB sticks, emailing files, wrestling incompatible systems, and many other thankless tasks. All of this effort has a distinct feeling of being a waste of time: wrangling data is not farming. How many times has your tractor been in perfectly fine operating condition except for some faulty, non-critical sensor? Did you stop the tractor until the sensor was fixed? Answer: nope. We hot-wired the sensor to get the tractor running because our weather “data” says rain is coming in 3 hours, and we’re going to finish this field. The sensor data just didn’t seem that important.
So the real question is, if records are such a hassle, why do we mess with them at all? The answer lies in the reason those stacks of papers and notebooks are still sitting on the table from past seasons: apparently we all believe the potential value of the data outweighs the hassle. It’s high time we turned all that “potential” value into real value.
Aaron Ault is the OADA Project Lead and a Senior Research Engineer at the Open Ag Technology Group at Purdue University.