Bid to establish a farm data co-operative

Bid to establish a farm data co-operative

Agribusiness
Jane Trindall (left), Narrabri, New South Wales and Kelly Manton-Pearce, Yealering, both spoke at last week's Southern Dirt TECHSPO on the subject of data driven farms of the future.

Jane Trindall (left), Narrabri, New South Wales and Kelly Manton-Pearce, Yealering, both spoke at last week's Southern Dirt TECHSPO on the subject of data driven farms of the future.

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Work is underway to establish Western Australia's first farm data co-operative.

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WORK is underway to establish Western Australia's first farm data co-operative.

Yealering farmer Kelly Manton-Pearce told attendees at last week's Southern Dirt TECHSPO that she was involved in a group that was trying to launch the concept.

"The idea is that it will be an agnostic hub where farmers can upload and store their data for perpetuity or access their data via an API (application programming interface)," Ms Manton-Pearce said.

"We want you to be able to utilise your data within this platform effectively and set up things that are important to farming businesses.

"This may be simple dashboarding or real time business intelligence."

Ms Manton-Pearce said the group was also interested in how they could leverage off the platform to enable tech providers to build tools or apps for agriculture.

"These different tools will then talk to each other and we can share the data, with strict standards around it, of course," she said.

"We have a lot of things we want to do and feel there is a lot of industry-good function to what we do and that it will also allow us to partner or joint venture with tech providers.

"Ultimately the ethos will centre around members of the co-operative benefiting from their own data."

Recently Ms Manton-Pearce travelled to the United States with the assistance of a State government research grant.

While there she attended the World Agritech Innovation Summit in San Francisco.

"This was a great opportunity to meet with ag-tech heads from various multi-nationals as well as ag data organisations," she said.

"It was a light bulb moment for me.

"What I found was that the US was not ahead of us in terms of ag technology adoption or development, but they are having strong conversation around data ownership and control, as well as storage and privacy."

Ms Manton-Pearce said it was on this trip that she also met with a producer-led and producer-owned data co-operative in Texas called Grower Information Services Co-operative (GISC).

"Basically that group has put together a program similar to the AgWorld platform and have formed strong collaboration with big technology companies such as IBM," she said.

"It is farmers that are taking control of their data to drive outcomes and it is something I am very interested in."

Ms Manton-Pearce told the audience that she and her husband Allan had been on their own journey to capture more value from their farm data.

"Over the past couple of years we have made a concerted effort to move farm data collection to more real time cloud-based programs and analytical programs, particularly from a farm accounting, budgeting and paddock recording point of view," she said.

"The flow-on effect from this is that we have become more interested in how we use farm data to improve our business.

"We had become quite overwhelmed with the amount of technology and programs available and I have a real interest in data integration systems because integration is a critical thing to get the maximum value from data.

"Over the past few years we have seen some really sophisticated and mature platforms for data integration evolve and these are enabling us to pull together data from a variety of sources whether it is yield data, spatial data and so on, all into the one place so we can potentially use that data for some valuable means."

While the future is exciting and the potential is untapped, Ms Manton-Pearce said the industry had some issues to get through and there had been some consistent themes in her studies over the past two years.

"Interoperability is a term we hear a lot," she said.

"As farmers we want hardware and software that can talk to each other and share data.

"This leads to the point where we can collect data and analyse data in a really streamlined and efficient way.

"The key factor impacting interoperability is data standards and what we don't have in the ag industry are best practices principles around things such as reference architecture, which is basically how ag software is developed so platforms can talk to each other.

"If we don't have interoperability it is hard to integrate data without significant data processing."

Ms Manton-Pearce said when she looked for programs the first thing she thought about was how was the data accessed.

"We moved to using the cloud-based programs and while I trialled a lot of programs the key for us was thinking about what questions we are trying to answer and what data will do to improve our business," she said.

To explain this point, Ms Manton-Pearce used an example from last year's tough season in the Yealering area where crops were badly frosted.

"We knew we were going to take a big financial hit and around that time is also when our business starts to push its peak debt," she said.

"We needed critically to prioritise what we were going to spend on our paddocks and what we were going to do with the paddocks for rest of year - almost on an individual paddock basis.

"Then we related that spending and income to cash flow for the next six months.

"We had our Agworld data and historical data and we were able to come up with a range of price and yield scenarios for each paddock and determine the best course of action based on cash flow and return on investment to make the most of what was a difficult year.

"We came up with a whole heap of scenarios quickly and easily and looked at the impact on cash flow and profit and loss and from there made our decisions."

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