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A vision is out there for all this data that farmers are collecting: You spend a day doing a lot of work, and when you have a moment, you open a screen — on your computer, smartphone or tablet — to see all the information collected from your work available.
In many ways, that day has arrived for farmers who have partnered with a single-player system, as companies including John Deere, Case IH, FarmLogs, Ag Leader and others in the information-gathering business have upped their big data games.
But what about sharing with others? And what happens if you have more than one brand of equipment on the farm?
“It’s getting better. We have some of the pieces of the puzzle, and we can start to see the picture, but it’s not clear yet,” says Adam Gittins, general manager of HTS Ag in Harlan, Iowa, a provider and supporter of data collection products from Ag Leader and Trimble.
Gittins shares the example of using Ag Leader and its SMS software, which lets him send information wirelessly from a machine to the AgFiniti cloud, and files can be transferred to and from the field. However, the AgFiniti system can’t send data to a John Deere monitor, yet. And moving information from a competitive system into the Ag Leader software is still a manual process, not automatic from the Internet.
He sees the market aligning, and in 2016 farmers will see some major opportunities. Already, John Deere and Climate Corporation have an arrangement that allows information to flow from a John Deere platform to the FieldView system in near real-time. And John Deere has connections and agreements with a growing number of analytics companies, including DuPont Pioneer’s Encirca.
One common theme when talking to major players in the data game is that every system can read your files, even as the ease of transfer gets worked out.
Leo Bose, who works with the Case IH Advanced Farming System, also makes clear that farmers should know the terms of the user agreement surrounding all of these systems. For example for Case IH, “the farmer owns the agronomic information generated from the system,” he says. “The producer chooses who sees it.”
Bose says as the AFS system has evolved, producers have gotten more access to information. However, he adds that this is from Case IH equipment to the Case IH software. “We can still use AFS Mapping and our Record Suite to review and analyze data and create prescriptions for variable-rate planting or fertilizer,” he says. “For competitive systems, that information must be entered manually.”
Creating new connections
Other systems out there can bypass your tractor’s in-cab monitor system and send field data directly to the cloud for your use on different systems. FarmMobile LLC has such a device, and farmers can pull from the machine’s CANBUS network through an ISOBUS connection.
Another product is FarmLogs Flow, introduced late in 2015. “We spent more than a year developing this system that allows you to connect our FarmLogs Flow to your ISOBUS connection and send data, in real time, to the FarmLogs system,” says Jesse Vollmar, founder and CEO.
He says this direct connect eliminates the hassle of moving files. “We had to do a lot of work to be able to read data off the John Deere data-bus. This is not an open, published thing, and they made it a challenge to get access,” Vollmar says. “This is not the only way a farmer can get information from their machine, but it is an alternative way.”
Climate Corp., a division of Monsanto, is rolling out the FieldView Drive in 2016 in limited quantities. The system connects to a machine’s ISOBUS and shares information through Bluetooth to a tablet and to the FieldView cloud. These ISOBUS connections provide a more common infrastructure for data collection, but they’re also proprietary to the analytic software provider’s platform.
John Deere has a novel approach, too. In 2015, the company developed the Mobile Data Transfer device, which connects to the USB port in a display to transfer data. The information goes from the device to an application on a smartphone, where it is then boosted to the company data cloud where the farmer can put it to work.
“Every producer has a unique situation, and I think we are definitely trying to help make it easier whether Deere or partially Deere or non-Deere technology is involved,” says Deanna Kovar, director of sales channel and customer support for John Deere Precision Ag. “We want to make it easier for farmers to use all of their data, machine-collected or human-collected.”
For John Deere users, the Operations Center becomes the focal point, and that Mobile Data Transfer tool, which currently works with John Deere’s 2630 display, also works with many competitive displays, including Ag Leader, where data can be transferred back and forth with the Operations Center, Kovar says. “This allows older displays that don’t have a JDLink system to send information to the cloud the ability to send information to Operations Center more easily.”
We’re in a new generation of data gathering and management, but as Gittins notes, there’s work to be done if you’re trying to pull in information from different types of systems.
Mike Martinez, marketing director for Trimble Agriculture, sees data transfer in two ways. First is your need to get information from your farm to a trusted adviser, and the second is the data sharing from a compatibility standpoint.
“Sending information between the grower and the agronomist — in either direction — can pose a bit of a challenge if you’re not on the same platform,” Martinez notes. He notes that the company’s Connected Farm platform, has expanded its ability to read and share files with more analytics software recently.
He says when a farmer sends a file to an agronomist, for example, using email or some file-sharing link, the process is “not as easy as we’d like it to be.” He adds that users who benefit the most are on the same basic platform — for example, from a Connected Farm system to another Connected Farm user. Yet the key innovation here is the growth in application program interface development.
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