Big Data Analytics – Just another passing fad?

Big Data Analytics – Just another passing fad?

Oct 24
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

ABE professor emeritus Michael Hirsch shares his #ACESstory!

The influence of “big data” is immense, and it is growing.

In agriculture, we have data available on soils, and how weather influences crop growth, yield, and environmental impact, plus, data on machinery performance, and much more, with far more precision than previous generations of growers and engineers.  It’s not a fad - we are using it and depending upon it more and more.  The question is, can the use and precision continue to grow and refine?

Today, radar data is available in near-real-time, so hourly access, tabulation, distribution, analysis, and use is practical and can be used for soil moisture and crop production estimation.  Precipitation, soils, topography, and ground cover data are all available and are georeferenced such that they can be attributed to the same small area on the earth’s surface.  Precipitation also has a time reference for each of those small areas.  One can now know, using software such as Morning Farm Report® (MFR) by Agrible®, for any parcel of ground in the US in any given hour on any given day, whether that ground is too wet to conduct field work, whether the soil is cool enough to apply anhydrous ammonia, whether the soil is warm and dry enough to plant corn, and a myriad of other questions a grower or land manager might wish to ask.

If you’re still not convinced, think about Google Maps for a moment. You bring the application up on your smart phone, enter your location and your destination.  The app suggests a “quickest” route with alternatives having longer travel times.  In order to make that recommendation, the app must have access to the hundreds upon thousands of roads, plus current traffic, pavement conditions, and construction on those roads, plus, data on speed limits on those roads and your preferences as to whether you pay tolls, drive on a freeway, etc.  A generation or two ago, the decisions would be made based on paper maps with no current information on conditions or traffic, except what you might glean as you get closer to broadcast radio traffic reports, or truckers reporting via CB radio (assuming you listen in).  Now, we don’t even think about it; we just open the app.

Big data is here to stay. As we become more and more dependent upon it in many aspects of our everyday lives, it will be less and less obvious and more integrated in what we do each day.