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News & Media

Public Universities Come Together to Level Playing Field for Farmers

May 24, 2016

Rivalries are a hallmark of the university experience -- an opportunity for students and alumni to show off their school pride, root for our student-athletes, and, last but not least, secure all-important bragging rights. And while we all certainly look forward to competing on the playing field, sometimes we come together for a different reason: to level it. 

That’s what the Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC) is all about. Leveling the playing field for our nation’s farmers. The ADC is the product of years of development by both private and public stakeholders, including Auburn University, The Ohio State University, Mississippi State University and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Not everyone may be aware that farmers collect valuable data every time their equipment passes through the rows. Or that the information collected by their tractors, harvesters, aerial drones and other devices is becoming more and more important to securing the future of our nation’s agriculture sector. But this is the reality that we face in the 21st century. Data is in many ways the new currency in agriculture and we have an obligation to ensure that farmers are the ones in the driver’s seat. And that means filling a void.

Currently, few farmers are able to fully use their data even though most are collecting it every day.  It's not about a lack of understanding. It’s about a lack of options.  It’s about the speed of technology outpacing alternatives. The current ag data environment is fractioned and confusing at best.

ADC’s goal — our goal — is to develop a comprehensive data “bank” for famers to safely store and manage this newest asset. And we are well on our way. Over time, the data farmers store can be scrubbed, synced and transmitted in an efficient and uniform way to third parties.

We refer to it as a “bank” because in a sense it will operate like one. Farmers will “direct deposit” their data (aka currency), then manage it through something like an online banking system. When a farmer wishes to “transfer” funds, ADC will be able to transmit the data on the farmer’s behalf to whomever the farmer wishes —researchers, crop insurance agents, government officials, farm managers, input providers or any trusted advisor, to name just a few.

As land-grant universities, we are especially invested our farmers. It is part of our charge to assist farmers in our respective states and to help them make the right decisions for their livelihoods and their families. The ADC goes a long way in fitting this bill by ensuring farmers are able to maximize this newest asset, which is critically important to helping them remain in a competitive position with other producers.

We also have an obligation, as universities, to ensure that our research endeavors respond to the needs and potential of our constituents. By streamlining “big data,” we will have better access to the important information needed to make certain that we are focused on research opportunities that will most effectively drive innovation and boost on-farm production.

ADC is especially unique in that it has a cross-section of members, including universities, farmers, industry firms and agricultural technology providers. Each of us brings different insights and resources to the table, as well as an understanding of the production challenges specific to our region. By collaborating, we are combining our expertise on many subjects to develop solutions that will have much greater benefit for the American farmer. And as diverse training background is, we are united in our belief in a data collection system that is neutral, independent, secure and farmer-centric. Farm data. Farmer controlled.

Buckeye, Tiger, Husker or Bulldog — we all take great pride in our longstanding school traditions and spirit of competitiveness.  But we are also stewards of the future and the future for farmers lies in being in control of the data they collect. 

And that is why we are all proud founding members of the ADC team.
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Dr. Steven Taylor, Professor and Head of the Biosystems Engineering Department, Auburn University

Dr. Scott Shearer, Professor and Chair of the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University

Dr. Keith H. Coble, W.L. Giles Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University

Dr. Joe Luck, Assistant Professor and Precision Agriculture Engineer in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • Commission on Food, Environment, & Renewable Resources

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