ReachOut: Data

ReachOut: Data from United Farmers Cooperative on Vimeo.

Mike Zwingman

Mike Zwingman

Data.  I’ve alluded to its importance and its growing place in our industry before, but it’s about time that I just tackle the beast head on.  Data is a big deal.

The topic warrants a little grace from us.  Our industry hasn’t exactly embraced it yet, and we’ve been slow at times to even consider its potential benefits.  Something about it seems just a little off-putting.

That is because, I think, embracing data suggests that maybe there’s something lacking in our abilities and intuition.  Here’s the thing though: you can be completely confident in your abilities and learn to love data as well.  The two are not mutually exclusive.

In fact, your confidence coupled with data usage would make a dynamite combo.  All those decisions that you make—data will help you to truly understand how they affect your operation.  No doubt that you can easily recognize whether a decision you made was “good” or “bad,” data will assist you in understanding not only the magnitude of the good or bad, but also the why behind it.

We have, now more than ever before, the capability to measure, and we have the capability to measure lots of things.  Things like your total separator hours v. how much time corn is actually running through your machine.  Things like total water usage per bushel of corn.  If we aggregate these measurements, we can establish a mean or an average to which we can compare our own numbers and see how they stack up.

To be certain, we aren’t measuring just to measure.  We need first to determine what is important, what information would make a direct and beneficial impact on our operations.  And, to be certain, comparison to an average isn’t for competition’s sake.  Rather, it is to determine both our strengths and where we can yet improve to increase our efficiency and improve our yield.

And once we know where we might improve our practices, data allows us to conduct a systematic investigation, to drill down into the details and single out those details most in need of our attention.Header1

I’m expecting a little resistance to this and I welcome it.  I believe that data driven decision making is the future of our industry.  Everything we do, from irrigation to nutrient planning to planting to harvest can benefit from the wise incorporation of data.  And whether you agree or not, I invite a spirited discussion.  Friends, my phone is ever ready to receive your calls and questions, and you can count on future articles further addressing this important topic as I work to bring the wonders of the data age here to benefit us in our quest for high yields, profit, and the sustainability of our land and profession into the future.