Knowledge and Data – Blog #3

Knowledge and Data – Blog #3

Tom Pate, Chair of Scottish Agronomy
4th June 2020

Data, data, everywhere. Modern life seems to be drowning in data. Technology spews data out at us at an alarming rate. Some of it is useful, some of it is irrelevant and some if it is just plain misleading depending on how it’s interpreted and presented.

I recently had a demonstration of a top spec tractor. The on-board computer could tell me in minute detail various aspects of the machine and its operations, but after a couple of days the only data I really wanted to know was the fuel level. This, however, was lost in a sea of irrelevant information.

Data without knowledge is pointless. Firstly, you need an understanding of what data is useful to you and your business. There is no point spending time and money on technology without knowing what you want to monitor and control and how best to capture data. Then, ask if it useful to you.

I’m pretty sure there will be data produced by GPS systems, yield monitors and soil scans languishing in farm offices that isn’t being utilised fully. Without the ability to analyse it, it can just be a costly distraction.

Some data is produced to allow us to make decisions about business and monitor key functions from accounts, to stock levels and performance efficiencies. But sometimes this harvesting of information masquerades as being of use to us, the users, but in reality, the data is being collated in forms of “big data” which has value to organisations well beyond the tech we are utilising.

Monitoring habits, locations, spending, performance and behaviour of people and businesses is itself big business and we mostly give this information away for free or without knowing. I mean who really reads the small print of the tech we use?

Data is valuable and is a tradable commodity. Farmers should be aware of who is using their data and for what purposes and that may give us a clue as to the value of the data we hold.

At Scottish Agronomy the gathering of data combined with knowledge is our business. The cooperative was founded and still runs with data and knowledge at its core. Understanding what data to gather, how to read the results and then how to relay the most relevant findings is the most important thing for members.

The data the co-operative produces is extremely valuable and is retained for the benefit of its members. It is not given away freely to outside interests and its value is understood and protected by all involved. Transferring the relevant information to members is really what we do.

With improvements to the website and the regular bulletins, the flow of useful data is only going to improve and continue to furnish members with reliable, relevant and robust information. Knowledge and data combined – now that’s a powerful thing.

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