We'd Like To Mention

Cultivate a Data Crop

Gregg Hillyer
By  Gregg Hillyer , Progressive Farmer Editor-in-Chief
(stevanovicigor, Olivier Le Moal, Getty Images, photo illustration by Barry Falkner)

Farmers are constantly tinkering with their crop mix, finding the right combination that produces the best odds for a profitable outcome. However, the crop I'm referencing doesn't sprout from a seed, and although it's well-known, it will play an even more prominent role in your overall success for the foreseeable future.

What is it? Data. Farmers have long recorded pertinent field facts, crop inputs used and growing-season observations. I remember Dad keeping his information in a seed-corn-company-supplied notebook in his shirt pocket for quick-and-easy reference. Much has changed since then. Data-collection technology has evolved to allow farmers to add and analyze myriad layers of information to make smarter decisions. Gigabytes of data can be automatically gathered with every field pass or from above via drone or satellite.

Additional tools are being developed to amass even more data. As our Summer 2023 cover story "Under the Canopy", sensors, probes and robots promise to enhance and expand in-season monitoring of the crop itself, but also countless other factors above and below the soil surface that influence crop development throughout the growing season.

Data also is key to fully leveraging data-centric technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Both process huge data dumps and connect the dots to provide insights and a best course of action to spur yield gains and optimize the use of inputs, water and more. Instead of pages of a notebook filled with agronomic advice, these technologies analyze algorithms, completing complicated calculations in split seconds to produce a recommendation or action far faster than any human could do.

Further, the more data these AI models access, the smarter they become, predicting more insightful outcomes and performing highly precise operations. Examples of agricultural equipment already available using AI and machine learning include sprayers that differentiate weeds from the crop, allowing for targeted herbicide application, and autonomous tractors and robots.

Enabling farmers to achieve more with less, reduce risk and create more predictable results has created a boom in the autonomous farming industry with some 200 AI-based agricultural startups in the U.S. alone. Globally, investment on smart, connected ag technologies and systems is expected to triple in revenue by 2025, reaching more than $15 billion, according to Business Intelligence (BI) research. Spending on AI tech and solutions for ag is expected to grow from $1 billion in 2020 to $4 billion by 2026, estimated by MarketsandMarkets in-depth analysis.

The role -- and value -- of AI will only increase as the technology advances and farmers learn to implement it. But, beyond the gee-whiz factor, the capabilities are limited only by the quality of the data, making it an essential crop every farmer needs to cultivate.



Field Posts was named the Best Podcast in its revenue class in the 2023 Jesse H. Neal Awards. Considered the "Pulitzer Prize" for business-to-business publications, Field Posts is hosted by journalist Sarah Mock. The weekly podcast discusses a wide range of topics important to agriculture.

In addition, DTN/Progressive Farmer was named a finalist in five other categories in the national competition, the most of any ag media company:

-- Best Single Article for "China Investment Controversy," by Chris Clayton

-- Best Subject-Related Package for "Climate Smart Farming," by Anthony Greder, Chris Clayton, Des Keller, Todd Neeley, Pamela Smith, Matthew Wilde

-- Best Profile Article for "Focused on Tomorrow," by Des Keller

-- Best Art Direction for a Cover for "Label Wars," by Brent Warren, Barry Falkner, Joel Reichenberger

-- Best Website

Listen to Field Posts at https://fieldposts.buzzsprout.com/…


-- Write Gregg Hillyer, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, email gregg.hillyer@dtn.com, or follow Gregg on Twitter @GreggHillyer


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