ReachOut: Aptitude

ReachOut: Aptitude from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

Mike Zwingman

Mike Zwingman

My brother is a carpenter.  And holy moly do his skills with a saw put mine to a bloody shame.  Or a hammer.  Or a tape measure.  It’s not that I’m a total klutz—I like to think in fact that I can be a bit handy.  But the difference between me, who likes to think that he’s a bit handy, and my brother, the professional, is nonetheless embarrassingly vast.

This is how it goes for most things in life, right?  You can throw a football, but Payton Manning can really throw a football.  You can drive a car, but Jeff Gordon can really drive a car.  You can cook dinner, but Anthony Bourdain can really cook dinner.

It’s okay.  There are people out there who can grow corn.  But you can really grow corn.

But apps.  Apps fall in the previous category, along with the football, car, and dinner.  They’re absolutely everywhere—big data, decision making tools and what not—and they call to you: I’m so easy to use!  Let me help you!  But apps are tools, just like a hammer or saw, and are used best in the hands of a professional.

Here’s my beef with apps: they automate too much of a living system.  At their worst, this automation devalues the operator and robs you of the power that is inherent in decision making.  At their best, this automation serves as a compliment to the intimate knowledge that we possess about our own operations.  At their best, apps don’t make decisions for us.  Rather, they comment on the potential success of our own decisions by providing the data to show us how our decisions might play out.

I don’t think it’s silly to worry that apps might lead us astray.  They base their prescriptions on metadata but sometime masquerade as the final word on this or that.  Should someone take their prescriptions as the final word, I imagine that some ugly things might happen.

Agronomy is an artisan discipline.  To really do well in it, one has to know but also feel.  Which is why we can’t put all of our eggs in the app basket—apps don’t feel.

People feel.  At the end of the day, agriculture is still a belly to belly business, and business still happens out in the field, next to your pickup, which is a very big reason that I love it.

I also love it because it is part science, and here’s the space for apps.  Apps provide us with access to tremendous amounts of data and information.  When we use that data and info as evidence for or against a decision, we bolster our confidence to do one thing or another, or to not do one thing or another.    There’s a lot of power in that.  When used correctly, as an adjunct to our own knowledge and sensibilities, aps allow us not only to own our decisions but to feel convicted about them.Blue Box

Don’t dump your decision making powers onto some machine programmed by some geek living 1000 miles away.  Retain your powers, and enlist the help of a professional, like those of us at Central Valley Ag, when it comes to wielding apps.  Truly, they are very powerful tools, and the aid they provide to our decision making process can’t be denied (and shouldn’t be ignored).  Yet the wide world of metadata is full of holes that I’d like for you to avoid, so let us assist you.  Let us serve as your professional guide to the geekery that is an app.  Together we can marry the artisanship of agronomy with the data of an app, so that you can be convicted with the important decisions you make daily for the success of your operation.