Standardization is a buzzword that comes up often in conversations I have with precision farming specialists. Whether they are talking about machinery compatibility or data transfer, the same challenges apply — being able to seamlessly provide a simple solution to a complex problem.
While attending the 12th International Conference on Precision Agriculture in Sacramento, Calif., last week, industry researchers and experts echoed the need to develop universal standards. But there are still more questions than answers on this front, even at the most basic level.
“What is the quality standard for yield data?” asks one precision technology specialist I talked with at the conference. “This is an area where we critically need standards, because right now, that quality is pretty subjective and is hurting the end value for customers.”
In other words a set of yield data may be deemed useful by one specialist, but unusable by another, depending on the depth and scope of analysis and the type of software used to process the data.
As the specialist told me, “Right now, I can pull the yield data from the same combine and run it through 5 different farm management information systems (FMIS) and get 5 different results.”
That’s a problem and one which can be hard to explain to a customer who knows what his fields harvested, at least according to his yield monitor. To help account for variability, some specialists are “cleaning” yield data, by eliminating the extreme high and low recorded yields.
The specialist I spoke with says he’ll often eliminate corn yields above 350 bushels per acre and below 35 bushels per acre to try and paint a more accurate and realistic yield picture for the customer.
But the specialist admits that the report he develops had better meet the expectations of the customer.
“That customer is going to know if his field yielded a total of 10,483 bushels of corn and if I don’t show him that number, he’s going to kill me,” the specialist says.
While there are ongoing efforts by several industry groups to improve standardization across a number of precision farming platforms, it’s going to take time and a collaborative effort to move the concept from buzzword to reality.