The Currency Of Precision

Data are the foundation for decisionmaking in any enterprise but the complexity of their realization and their importance as a “currency” in the flow of information are overlooked by many practitioners.

The concept of data as currency is intriguing because it embodies the exchange of something that has value and ownership. Before delving into the question of ownership, it may be informative to discuss some technical aspects of data, especially from the perspective of their derivation for use in decisionmaking.

While a technical discussion may seem dry and boring on the first read, it does emphasize the steps necessary to realize “good” data. After the discussion, the reader may better appreciate the dictum that a decision is only as good as the data it is based on.

Numbers become data when they are reported with units. When we say a grower produced 100 bushels per acre, it is explicitly understood that a crop was measured in terms of yield over an area and implicitly understood that the yield was accumulated over a growing season. In fact, a more complete expression for the units of production would be 100 bushels per acre per growing season. To be useful as information for decision making, data must be reported in some quantity over space and time. The finer the spatial and temporal resolutions of data, the more information we have about some phenomenon such as crop production.

Data, especially in the form of recorded numbers, are considered “raw” and must be “cleaned” before being accepted as credible information. That data are first considered raw upon collection can easily be appreciated by anyone who has worked with yield monitors. As a harvester moves and turns across a field with different speeds, the amount of yield recorded by a monitor can vary greatly. In fact, it is very common to find unrealistically high and low yield values due to the recording limitations of a monitor. The measured yields, which include extreme values, are considered “raw” data. These raw data must be post processed to remove the extreme values or “outliers.” The post-processed data are considered a “clean” source of information for decision making.

Hitting The Target

As part of the measurement process, every datum has an associated “precision” and “accuracy” in order to quantify the degree to which a number is close to the “true” value and the degree to which it is repeatable. The popular archery analogy may help to explain precision and accuracy. An archer shoots a number of arrows at a target consisting of a bull’s-eye (true value) surrounded by rings. If arrows are clustered close together right on the bull’s-eye of the target, then the archer has high precision and high accuracy. If arrows are clustered close together on the target but centered on an outer ring far from the bull’s-eye, then the archer has high precision and low accuracy. If arrows are far apart on different rings but centered on the bull’s-eye of the target, then the archer has low precision and high accuracy. The accuracy of a recording device can be improved by the process of calibration but precision is an inherent limitation due to design. The precision and accuracy of a datum is expressed mathematically as a number plus or minus an “uncertainty interval” at a stated level of confidence. In the example of the yield monitor, the harvested yield of a crop could be 100 +/- 5 bushels per acre at a 95% confidence level.

Knowledge about the uncertainty of a datum is important for decisionmaking. The larger the uncertainty interval associated with a datum at a given confidence level, the greater the risk in a decision. For a given uncertainty interval, the lower the confidence level associated with a datum, the greater the risk in a decision. A production manager relying on monitored yields clearly wants a small uncertainty interval with a high level of confidence when making decisions. For typical crop production decisions, the confidence level is usually set at 90% or higher when determining an uncertainty interval associated with a datum. The manager is then guided by the uncertainty interval when making a decision using the datum.

It is apparent from the previous discussion that the realization of “good” data takes some effort. However, once the effort becomes routine, a manager will have confidence in the data and subsequently in the decisions made with the data. If the procedure for recording and reporting data follows a standard, then the realized data can be a shared among different farming operations. Before discussing this sharing of data as the “currency” of precision agriculture, the issue of ownership needs to be addressed.

A Continuing Debate

The question of data ownership has been debated since the beginning of precision agriculture. There are several positions on ownership. They range from growers own data because they were collected on their farms to companies own data because they were incorporated into services. Some argue that whoever pays for data, owns the data. Others argue that whoever collects the data, owns the data. The question of ownership ultimately comes down to the agreement made between the grower and the person or entity collecting and/or generating data to support decision making. To avoid any misunderstanding, this agreement should be explicit and in writing. The agreement should specify the rights of individuals or other entities as to the collection, storage, and use of data. It should also address any backup, security, and privacy issues.

As new equipment and information technologies are introduced into precision agriculture, the volume of data realized in a production cycle will continue to grow at an increasing rate. The sharing of these data as a “currency” across communities will benefit not only the participants but contribute to the information flow within the industry.

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Drone
EquipmentFarming Drones: The Future Of Agriculture?
April 7, 2017
Chances are, you already know drones are amazing. After all, this is something DroneLife readers just understand. But if you’re Read More
Falcon soil sampler
EquipmentSerious Soil Sampling Rigs
April 6, 2017
The industry has seen an increase in automation in sampling equipment, and consultants now often pull cores with an automated Read More
Farmer Scouting Weeds in Soybean Field
EquipmentSoil, Scouting Programs Continue To Gain Value
April 5, 2017
How much growers and their retailers utilize soil testing and scouting varies greatly. But they should step up their game Read More
Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
Precision Ag6 Key Takeaways from Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
April 5, 2017
Advisory investment group The Mixing Bowl teamed up with Forbes for its New York-based event this year to discuss technology’s Read More
Trending Articles
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionStill Hunting Yields
April 1, 2017
There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
Latest News
ManagementAn Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tooteli…
April 20, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses An Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tootelian Read More
Students Soybean Field
Industry NewsMACA Announces 2017 Young Leader Scholarship Recipients
April 19, 2017
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) Board of Directors selected 11 college students to receive the MACA Young Leader Scholarship Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
SoftwareKnoa Software Solution Helps GROWMARK Boost System Perf…
April 19, 2017
Knoa Software, a leading provider of user experience management (UEM) software, has announced that GROWMARK, Inc., a regional agricultural cooperative Read More
Crop InputsFBN Publishes ‘Voice of the Farmer’ Agricul…
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, which the company is describing as “a special Read More
ManagementTalking Responsible Ag
April 13, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses the Responsible Ag program with director Bill Qualls. Read More
Crop InputsFlying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big
April 13, 2017
Describing FMC as “under the radar,” admittedly, is probably a stretch. But in a snap of the fingers, FMC upped Read More
Crop InputsWhat do Roundup and Mickey Mouse Have in Common? Califo…
April 13, 2017
(SOURCE: East Valley Times) Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s Roundup and many other weed killers, is being added Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSource: ChemChina to Divest Assets to Adama Following S…
April 11, 2017
China National Chemical Corp. plans to redistribute agrochemical assets to its Adama unit after the $43 billion takeover of Syngenta Read More
Farming drone air
Eric SfiligojThe Interest in UAVs for Agriculture Grows
April 10, 2017
At times, it seems as if experts have been predicting “big things” for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for several years Read More
OpinionOpinion: Taking On The Farmers Business Network
April 8, 2017
Well, another round of venture capital funding has come to Farmers Business Network (FBN), followed up with the obligatory feature Read More
Drone
EquipmentFarming Drones: The Future Of Agriculture?
April 7, 2017
Chances are, you already know drones are amazing. After all, this is something DroneLife readers just understand. But if you’re Read More
ManagementFMC-DuPont, Crop Plantings, and UAV Updates
April 6, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Jackie Pucci discuss the purchase agreement between DuPont and FMC, the 2017 crop acreage mix and Read More
Falcon soil sampler
EquipmentSerious Soil Sampling Rigs
April 6, 2017
The industry has seen an increase in automation in sampling equipment, and consultants now often pull cores with an automated Read More
Iowa waterways
FertilizerDow AgroSciences Recognizes Ag Retailers’ Role in Prote…
April 6, 2017
The state of Iowa and its agriculture community have worked for decades to preserve soil health, protect water quality and Read More
Farmer Scouting Weeds in Soybean Field
EquipmentSoil, Scouting Programs Continue To Gain Value
April 5, 2017
How much growers and their retailers utilize soil testing and scouting varies greatly. But they should step up their game Read More
Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
Precision Ag6 Key Takeaways from Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
April 5, 2017
Advisory investment group The Mixing Bowl teamed up with Forbes for its New York-based event this year to discuss technology’s Read More
Pam Marrone
Crop InputsQ&A With Pam Marrone On The World’s First All-Biolo…
April 4, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. and Israel-based Ground­work BioAg in February announced successful field trials of the world’s first all-biological comprehensive Read More
Corn soil
Crop NutritionBiostimulants Clamor For A Piece Of The Row Crop Market
April 3, 2017
The question these days isn’t who is venturing into biostimulants — it’s who isn’t. Or more to the point: The Read More