Putting a Price on Personalization
Crowd-sourced data companies have been growing in popularity among farmers. Some provide their members with performance benchmarking, insights about input and practice performance, and mapping and weather data. For an annual fee, farmers can buy into the network and receive data from other members to help them make decisions for their own farms.
How might crowd-sourced data companies affect you and your business? Answer Tech® spoke with Joel Wipperfurth, WinField ag technology applications lead, about these new entities and how companies like WinField are responding. Here are portions of that conversation.
Answer Tech®: How are the analytics that crowd-sourced data companies offer different than what WinField offers through the Answer Plot® Program and the R7® Tool?
Joel Wipperfurth: Most of these companies offer descriptive analytics, which tell us about something that happened before. It’s like looking in a rearview mirror. Descriptive analytics can be helpful for looking at field attributes like soil sample components, but pairing a hybrid by soil type is not something you want to do while looking back. Growers should spend a lot more time looking at prescriptive analytics, which actually use data to prescribe an action that a farmer can take. In our case, it’s the idea of crop modeling with the R7® Tool and examining results from replicated trials through the Answer Plot® Program.
AT: Farmers know that the Answer Plot® Program produces quality data and insights. Should they be concerned about getting farmer-procured data?
JW: It depends on how much sleep they’d lose if they knew farmers were entering seed information into their planters. Often, farmers are in a hurry and can make honest mistakes when they’re inputting hybrid numbers, for example. That’s the type of concern that arises when data was not reviewed by a local expert who can confirm its accuracy. This is inherent in crowd-sourced data situations, but not with Answer Plot® Program data.
AT: What are some of the ideas that crowd-sourced data companies are putting out into the marketplace?
JW: One message I heard at a presentation was, “molecules are molecules,” which is to say that glyphosate is glyphosate or Roundup® is Roundup®. Why would a farmer ever pay a nickel more per acre for something that is an absolute commodity? They’d pay the bare-bones minimum. WinField has research that describes what makes glyphosate different: its surfactant loads and the adjuvant system you use with it. Maybe the technical product is the same, but the inert ingredients, like the surfactants and the things you add to make the product better, couldn’t be more different.
AT: Will these companies eventually edge out local agronomists?
JW: Well, let’s look at a potential scenario. A farmer says, “I know everything I can know about adjuvants, how to apply products effectively and raise a big crop.” How did he get there? He personally interacted with people who knew the answers. Later, he joins a crowd-sourced data operation and doesn’t interact with those people he learned so much from. He’s okay for a while, but then he comes up against a different type of weed resistance, for example, and needs to get educated about how to handle it. The crowd-sourced data group may not know how to solve that particular problem, and he’s going to have to circle back and have those personal interactions. In other words, he’s going to go back to an expert to help him fix his problem. When that happens, you have to be his first call.