Although I always see some familiar faces when attending precision farming trade shows and conferences, there are a growing number of new ones at each event, particularly focused on offering data management services.

This is a segment of precision farming that is exploding and a topic that we’ve covered in the past — looking at how equipment dealers can leverage the service offering as a revenue source and how some are doing it successfully.

At the IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference in Altoona, Iowa, last week, I once again had the opportunity to visit with several emerging companies looking to carve out their place in data management service.

It seems that many of these service offerings tend to be geared toward agronomists or co-ops working with their customers to collect and analyze yield data.

In talking with different representatives, one of the questions I asked was where they see farm equipment dealers fitting into the data management equation in the future? The majority opinion was that dealers are likely to partner with data management vendors or consulting firms to offer the service to customers, in conjunction with equipment sales, rather than build their own operation internally.

The reason being that partnering with third parties for data management can be more efficient and less risky for dealers.

A representative from a software development company at IDEAg told me he talked with a dealer at the show about how to implement a data management platform.

“As soon as the conversation got to the point of extracting the data and knowing what to do with it, the dealer took a step back,” he says. “It’s an area where there’s a lot of interest from dealers, but also a lot of uncertainty.”

Partnering with an independent company to provide data management services to customers could be the gateway for equipment dealers into this segment of precision farming.

But this approach requires due diligence on the part of the dealer to make sure they’re choosing the right partner.

One of the more interesting comments I heard at the conference came from an Iowa dealer who suggested that eventually, the agricultural market will be saturated with data management companies, and not all of them will survive.

Today, the data management market is still far from full and many of the newer companies are filling voids in areas where there has been little or no service. But as competition increases, I’ll be curious to see what the data management market looks like in 3 years.

“There will certainly be some casualties,” the Iowa dealer says. “But there’s also a lot of opportunity out there right now.”