Under-investment in data technology will inherently limit the impact of initiatives striving to improve agriculture, warns Robert Allen of Greenvale AP, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of fresh potatoes. Robert is co-chair of Agri-Tech East’s ‘Big Data’ special interest group which aims to put the needs of growers and producers at the heart of the technology developments.
Robert Allen explains that the core challenge is making ‘big data’ meaningful. He says: “The starting point is a clear and defined strategy of why and how they use data; this is essential if maximum commercial benefit is to be extracted.
“For example, understanding the impact of a new variety or piece of bio-technology requires the collection and interpretation of relevant data. Likewise, incremental improvements in commercial production can only be quantified by meaningful data collection, management and interpretation. Under-investment in data technology will inherently limit the impact of initiatives striving to improve agriculture.
“My talk will introduce what I believe are the key factors that need to be considered when designing and implementing a data strategy for an agricultural business.
“Data service providers produce solutions for elements of the production process but not its entirety. I see the SIG as an opportunity for growers and producers to develop confidence in how to better utilise their data and for data service providers to understand where they can deliver maximum benefit to their users.”
Robert gives the example of the potato sector where data on crop agronomy and meteorology is required for yield forecasting.
“In the potato sector, the commercial yield of a crop is determined by the gross yield, tuber size distribution and crop quality. In-season yield forecasting models provide valuable insight into final yields which can then be used for adjusting procurement and factory operational plans.
“However, accumulating the required data across a large portfolio of geographically distributed crops is challenging.
“Development of tools such as NIAB-CUF’s CanopyCheck are streamlining the data collection process and allow effective information to be created, but much more work is needed in this area.”
Robert also views the SIG as an opportunity for those actively using agricultural data to meet and share ideas:
“On a personal level I extensively use open source technology and would be very interested in developing a user community where ideas, applications and skills in this area can be shared.”
The Agri-Tech East Big Data SIG event “A Data Strategy for Agri-Business – Why Bother?” is generously sponsored by Plextek and will be held at its headquarters on Wednesday 29 April at Plextek, Great Chesterford, CB10 1NY.