By Nate Birt

Here’s What It Will Take To Empower Farmers To Make Data-Driven Farm And Stewardship Decisions

December 20, 2021

Here at Trust In Food, we’ve got data on the brain. In fact, along with the Founding Partners of America’s Conservation Ag Movement (ACAM), we recently published a free whitepaper titled, “Scaling Connected Ag: How Farmers Find Success With Data-Driven Decision Making – And How Trusted Ag Advisers Can Help Accelerate It.”

You can download the report here

This report represents the first work product stemming from the ACAM Connected Ag Working Group, which formed from a shared desire to help accelerate farmers’ transition to data-driven decision making. We have found common cause helping farmers and their trusted advisers capture, analyze and make ROI-driven use of farm-level data for better economic and environmental outcomes.

Depending on who you ask, those outcomes might include:

  • Uniting agriculture and consumers through greater visibility into on-farm activities

  • Opening the financial spigot for farmers, providing premiums on identity-preserved commodities and access to ecosystem services markets

  • Illustrating the economic and environmental benefits of conservation-oriented farming systems, with benefits for farmers, communities and society

However, hope alone won’t get us where we need to be tomorrow, and certainly not in the next decade. If you are a sustainable ag professional who works regularly with farmers or trusted advisers, you know that well.

From the perspective of the ACAM Connected Ag Working Group, taking action that improves farmers’ lives right now is more important than continuing to talk about barriers alone.

So we commissioned four focus groups with both farmers and trusted advisers to learn firsthand the benefits data is offering—and the potential good it could do if farmers and their trusted advisers were properly resourced. Now more than ever, action is needed to help farmers adapt to a changing climate and participate fully in an increasingly digitized agri-food value chain.

As you will see in the report, what we discovered is that the transition to data-driven farming will depend, first and foremost, on person-to-person relationships, knowledge sharing, and a safety net. Sure, new innovation and lower-cost access will undoubtedly help, but farmers and ag retailers note the immediate needs are often more practical – and the potential solutions more straightforward – than a mystical algorithm or a fleet of data wizards.

For example, ideas that surfaced during our conversations with farmers and trusted advisers included:

  • Buddy seat ride-alongs for training and troubleshooting.
  • 24/7 tech support that has a farmer’s back in a pinch.
  • Advisers who know how to interpret what a farmer’s data says and how to optimize production and environmental outcomes, with local conditions top of mind
  • Predictive data and modeling tools that help farmers plan tomorrow’s decisions, rather than historical data snapshots that quickly date themselves.

Regardless of your professional title, consider this report a toolbox of ideas that have the power to help farmers or advisers you work with get started down the path to success in the future.

We won’t reach that vision tomorrow. But we can take the first step today.

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