Battling Data Overload

I am getting a new computer. Actually, I already have it — in fact, I am typing this on it right now.

For most folks, this is an occasion for celebration. Anymore, you get much past two years with a computer, and the slog of outdated programs, spyware, and the continuously improving and updating equipment around it turns even the sweetest laptop into a box only slightly smarter than the average stapler.

So, why am I not ready to go dancing in the streets? Unlike my last upgrade, which arrived after my computer experienced a full, final and glorious collapse which took everything on the hard drive with it, my current computer is alive and well — and full of data.

I have a notoriously loaded desktop, most of which should have hit the recycle bin. But some of it has value. And to top it off, it’s not at all effectively organized. I’m suffering from data overload, and I’m ready to throw the whole thing out and start over from scratch.

It has also made me appreciate the role retailers who offer agronomic services to growers play with the average grower. My problem is, I’m busy, and no one in the editorial department has the luxury of an administrative assistant. So, like a grower who sees rain in the forecast and blessedly dry corn in the field … data be darned, we’ve got to roll. When deadlines are hitting around here and layouts and copy are due, well, it’s the same deal for me.

But that’s where the comparison ends. While I can find ways around my own inefficiency, once a grower has failed at data collection it’s “game over.” Or, as MFA’s Rick Greene says in the cover story, “I’d rather have no data than bad data.”

MFA places significant emphasis on equipment training, and conditioning the grower to place as much importance on setting up equipment and collecting sound data as they do prepping the planter or the combine. Greene notes that new equipment that more seamlessly integrate the systems that collect and produce the data is making a big difference. The industry is moving in the right direction, but there’s more work to do.

This year, I’ve gotten involved in the issue of data consistency and compatibility through involvement in the organization Ag Gateway. This assemblage of industry experts and organizations is facilitating the creation of data standards within several segments of agriculture, including precision agriculture. This year, an ag retail group was formed, and I’m pleased to be able to offer my input in the process as a member of the committee. As you can guess, no one has asked to see my laptop for ideas.

The folks involved are excited about the collaboration happening so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing progress in the months ahead. Look for updates from Ag Gateway in this space and online at

I also want to add a sentence or two to encourage you to attend the Ag Retailers Association annual conference coming up the week after Thanksgiving. Daren Coppock and the conference team are putting together a fascinating lineup of sessions, and the networking with fellow retailers is tremendously valuable. Daren is especially interested in emerging technology, so you can expect to discover things you didn’t know.
Go to for full conference information.

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