Farmers might think they know more about what goes on inside their fence line than anyone else. But there may be a day when a number cruncher on the other side of the world can predict a farm’s performance just as well as the farmer, if not better. At least that’s the scenario that could emerge from the the brave new world of ‘big data’ – the collection of data from across a huge range of sources that can be mined for useful information.
In the United States big corporations supplying farm inputs are already looking at how they can use big data for commercial gain. And this week at the F20 conference on food security in Sydney farmers are learning why it’s in their interest to understand big data. Technology expert Danny Mekic is visiting from the Netherlands to explain why.
‘The difference between data and big data is big data contains a lot of information but also consists of very recent information,’ Mr Mekic said. He says all the questions farmers may have in Australia about how to improve productivity and yield have already been answered by growers in other parts of the world. ‘There is always someone in the world that is able to answer the question,’ Mr Mekic said. ‘I think it’s time farmers all over the world, not just Australia… co-operate more together with big data using each other’s knowledge and innovations. But to do that they need to have a place where they can find each other.
He says if farmers were able to collect information that they could then share with other farmers around the world, and not with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, then they could build a profile about their farm and access information or experts globally who could help them solve their problems. ‘In that way if you want to grow your farm or you have a strategic question… you can easily find another farmer in the world who can help you.’
Mr Mekic says big data is already available for other industries who are using the information they can glean to earn higher profits. He says it would be of greater benefit to farmers if people in the tech industry who develop games and apps used their skills to solve real world problems.
‘Of course it’s nice to create a game in which you could play a farmer but it would be much better investment from the people who have knowledge about data, about apps… if they would use their energy and their time to help farmers improve their yield, become more sustainable, give them access to the right education, to the right innovation, to the right research that is specifically relevant to their farm.’
This article was published on the website of ABC News, to which Danny Mekic’ gave a radio interview.