The InfoAg Conference 2014 Preview
InfoAg is back in 2014 as an annual conference (July 29-21). The move to St. Louis, MO, and going annual has not tempered the enthusiasm for InfoAg. Rather, the interest in the premier conference on precision agriculture is higher than ever. “Thanks to the terrific support of our sponsors, InfoAg generates its own energy,” said Steve Phillips, conference chair and director for the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). “With the sponsor showcase program and exhibits in the PrecisionAg Tech Center, the InfoAg sponsors really get the conference moving.”
The program hits the hot topics today: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), big data and wearable computers, but the approach is based in practicality and how to integrate the technology into crop production. This year we partnered with Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to pull together three sessions that address the most pressing issues for UAVs. What are ag researchers able to do with the data? How are farmers and consultants using UAVs in their operations? And when are we allowed to use UAVs for ag? AUVSI has lined up speakers to answer these questions and vendors at the conference will provide the systems and expertise for getting started.
Wearable computers such as Google Glass and smartwatches are the new area of personal computing. InfoAg covers this growing technology with a power-packed session followed by two hands-on workshops. “When we brought back the hands-on workshops, I did not know we would be wearing the computers, but this year, we don the Glass and other tech and see how these systems tie into Wi-Fi on the farm,” said Quentin Rund, conference secretary. He recommends: “Get there early. It’s going to be cool!”
Big Data features prominently at InfoAg with privacy concerns, ownership and new players on the scene. “We needed to include data discussions as part of the conference, but we wanted to approach it from our attendees’ point of view. What can they get here that they won’t get in other forums?” said Rund.
InfoAg attendees work with data every day. They need it to flow smoothly to help their customers make timely decisions. The debate can rage on over ownership, but if it is going to mean anything to anyone, it has to flow smoothly and fit together. InfoAg chose to focus on data standards and projects that are aimed at sharing data between hardware and software systems. AgGateway and the Open Ag Data Alliance will each have a voice at the conference. Add to that a report on producer attitudes on data and industry presentations on Modus and SPADE — two projects to help standardize data systems, and you have “Big Data Thursday.” The topic is timely and the speakers are at the top of their field.
The InfoAg program continues to bring attendees the latest in precision agronomy as well. The engineering capabilities always push the agronomic questions of how to make it pay. From variable-rate seeding to precision nutrient management, and on-farm research, InfoAg delivers on agronomics. Supporting that concept there are a pair of farmers and dealers who will address their metrics for measuring the return on their technology investment on the farm and at the dealership. “The program delivers precision ag topics and expertise no practitioner should be without,” said Phillips.
PrecisionAg Tech Center
The exhibit hall, newly christened the PrecisionAg Tech Center, is loaded with more booths and more vendors than ever before. Despite increasing the size, the PrecisionAg Tech Center is already full. The combination of hardware and software technologies in precision ag keep bringing innovators to the marketplace. The conference schedule dedicates time for exhibits including two evening receptions in the exhibit hall. “We know the success of precision ag comes from the relationships built through personal interaction. InfoAg facilitates this community interaction. It’s the ultimate conference for precision ag networking,” said Phillips.
St. Louis Union Station presents a new venue for InfoAg. “We wanted to make InfoAg easier to get to without raising the costs too much. The Hilton Double-Tree at Union Station had the space we needed and the parking and accommodation rates that made sense for our audience. It’s a good fit.” said Rund. With convenient light-rail service direct from the airport to the hotel and ample complimentary on-site parking, Union Station offers a unique combination of convenience for distant travellers and drive-ins.
The conference starts on Tuesday, July 29, but those who arrive just a day before can take advantage of the pre-conference tour. With stops at the internationally esteemed Danforth Plant Science Center for advances in genetics research, an innovative John Deere dealership for big data and smart iron, and a final stop for UAV demonstrations, the InfoAg pre-conference tour will be a full day of tours, talks and demos.
See more about InfoAg online at www.infoag.org. Tour the interactive exhibit hall and learn more about the program’s speakers and presentations. Online registration is open. The conference hotel is full but information on nearby accommodations is available.