Healthcare and Agriculture: United in Using Data to Improve the Quality of Life

James Gaston, a speaker at the 2016 PrecisionAg Vision Conference, provides a high-level overview of the conference in a recent HIMSS article where he cites interesting parallels between analytics in agriculture and healthcare. Key takeaways include the topics of Health and Safety, “Rights,” and Syndromic Surveillance. Read on to learn his perspectives about the connections between the agriculture and healthcare sectors in this article by Louise Sulecki, lead systems analyst at the Cleveland Clinic and wife of Meister Media Worldwide Corporate Content Director Jim Sulecki.

Precision Ag Isn’t Just About Production Ag Anymore

Diane Martin, President/CEO of Rhea & Kaiser, attended the PrecisionAg Vision Conference in Phoenix. She recently wrote this article, featuring the event:

Recently I attended the inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference with two colleagues from Rhea + Kaiser. It was an industry conference – not a farmer conference – focused on the possibilities and future of precision agriculture throughout the food and fiber value chain. Admittedly, some of the technical discussions were way above my ag tech, IoT, Big Data, agronomic and economic understanding. Still, I have a few insights and observations to share.

What will we call it in the future? Precision ag is earning new monikers such as digital agriculture and data-driven agriculture. I think I heard at least five different labels. Perhaps it’s just semantics, but to me it suggested that the ag industry is embracing Big Data and the Internet of Things, advancing well beyond the practical on-the-farm applications of precision farming.

It’s more than precision farming. The long-term value of precision ag may be upstream rather than on the farm. Integrators like Smithfield use precision ag to ensure feedstuffs for its hog units are grown to its quality and sustainability specifications. Food processors like Campbell’s are tapping into the track-and-trace capabilities of precision ag to validate sustainably sourced claims.
Precision ag is an important risk management tool. Crop insurance companies collect and aggregate the data to inform trigger yield charts and guide claims adjustments. For farmers and retailers, the years of data they’re collecting arms them with compliance data required by regulatory bodies like EPA or NRCS.

Sensing is the next frontier in precision ag. Data from soil-moisture and soil-nutrient sensors to inform irrigation and chemigation are only scratching the surface. We saw a presentation, “The Internet of Tomatoes,” that suggests in-field sensing may help growers consistently produce tomatoes with packers’ desired processing characteristics.

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A Clearer Vision In Precision Ag

by: Paul Schrimpf

When our team conceived of the PrecisionAg Vision Conference more than a year ago, we had a few essential ideas about its mission and purpose. First, the ag technology market is in a state of rapid evolution and significant investment that has continued despite the fact that we are in the midst of a market trough.

Second, folks like you are trying to figure out what emerging technologies such as sensors, robotics, and the Internet of things are likely to impact the work we do.

Third, there’s the belief that ag technology is going to impact every segment of agriculture, from food processing and retailing upstream to crop protection, seed, equipment and fertilizer manufacturers, and retailers downstream. It will impact every segment in a unique way, and we need to be ready.

Finally, there are many entities outside of agriculture with staggeringly powerful and complex technologies trying to figure out if what they do translates to the agriculture industry. Conference contributions from IBM, Bosch, and Dell from the podium, and many other tech companies in attendance, served as testimony to this trend.

So, while we had a specific audience in mind, the attendee profile was more expansive than we imagined. We had nearly 200 attendees, with representation from 12 countries and 30 states. The quest to understand where precision agriculture and ag technology is headed is without boundaries.

There were many highlights throughout the event, but a few come immediately to mind:

Bill Schmarzo, Chief Technology Officer at Dell/EMC and creator of the Big Data MBA course that is increasingly offered at universities across the country, took the conference by storm with his message on data. My key takeaway was don’t be afraid of the cycle of trying, failing, learning, and trying again. Giving employees “permission to fail” — when it leads to greater understanding and a clearer path forward — can be a powerful business tool.

Second, as someone with a deep fascination for technology, I really enjoyed Steve Whalley and Rob O’Reilly, who talked about the wide waterfront of sensor technology. From biodegradable printed sensors that could be spread on a field like fertilizer and provide in-season environmental information to a project called the “Internet of Tomatoes,” which used sensors to learn more about the impact of New England field and weather conditions on tomato quality and taste, the potential seemed endless.

Finally, as the editorial team lead, I was thrilled to hear so many speakers talk about the importance of the retailer and precision consultant in making technology work effectively for growers. Despite all the talk of automation and sensing, over and over again we heard speakers and experts in attendance stress the need for “boots on the ground” to implement and maintain these emerging technological wonders.

We’ve said it over and over, and will keep saying it: There’s a bright future for service-focused retail, and technology is key. And we’ll be demonstrating that conviction and commitment in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned …

2016 PrecisionAg Vision Conference: 7 Takeaways From Phoenix

Our inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference, held last week in Phoenix, AZ, is officially in the books.

Having convened just over 200 stakeholders that hail from every aspect of the food production value chain over three days to discuss and debate the “promise of data-driven agriculture”, the event clearly delivered on its pledge to provide “a global-view of precision agriculture” to attendees.

Hell, we may have ventured beyond global into the stratosphere during the Networking Roundtable discussions (and the cocktail receptions) alone, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyways, as we caffeine-addled and road-weary journalists often do after these types of events, there were a few random thoughts and themes that stick out from the high-level sessions, at least in this author’s mind.

So now, here are seven noteworthy (or perhaps not-so-noteworthy, depending on your own evaluation of the week’s discussions) thoughts from throughout the week:

  1. Uncover the next Uber: Syngenta Global Head, Product Development – Oilseeds, Dr. Joseph Byrum made the comment that precision ag needs to find the “next Uber,” and the idea of an Uber for Ag definitely stuck with our audience throughout the week. Just as Uber revolutionized how some of us get from point A to point B with a simple mobile interface that leverages widely adopted and now inexpensive technologies (smartphones, GPS) in a new way to create new efficiencies, there is hope that a simple, yet life-changing new technology platform will emerge to lead the precision agriculture world over and above the current sub-20% adoption rate that many estimate the industry is currently stuck at in the U.S.

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Finding Our Collective Future in Phoenix

James C. SuleckiBy James C. Sulecki, Corporate Content Director, Meister Media Worldwide

When we began conceptualizing the first PrecisionAg Vision Conference many months ago, we had in mind a unique assembly of representatives from all walks of agriculture and its many product and service affiliates. At the same time we began crafting our programming for attendees who had one unifying characteristic: They would be drawn from the more senior levels of their organizations, bringing both the responsibility and the passion to assert a strategic, multi-year agenda for technology-driven agriculture.

After taking a quick look at the wide range of attendees we look forward to hosting in Phoenix, I’m happy to say that even with five weeks remaining before the opening of the Conference, our effort is shaping up to be “mission accomplished.” Let’s take a quick glance at who has registered to date.

  • A number of very large growing operations.
  • Assorted senior-level personnel and precision ag managers from highly respected ag-retail and cooperative organizations including Crop Production Services and GROWMARK.
  • Precision technology and equipment suppliers including AGCO, John Deere, and Raven.
  • Crop input (and increasingly data-science) companies such as Bayer and Wilbur-Ellis.
  • Officials from trade organizations and their respective member companies united in the Coalition to Advance Precision Agriculture.
  • Diversified food organizations including Campbell’s and Smithfield.
  • Highly interested parties from the ag-tech and financial and investment communities including Rabobank, the Mixing Bowl, and William Blair, along with “outside voices” from the healthcare and oil and gas sectors.
  • And last but not least — delegates from countries outside of North America including Australia, Germany, Nicaragua, Ukraine, South Africa, Jamaica, Brazil, and Argentina.

Add it all together and we expect an unprecedented dialogue about the singular opportunity that precision agriculture and the digitization of the farm holds — for all our organizations. We look forward to seeing you in Phoenix …

Not Far Apart: Data Lessons From The Energy Sector

By Julie Parker
President, Tellus Geospatial, LLC (Edmond, OK)

Julie will present as part of a multi-speaker session titled “We Are Not Alone: Lessons Learned From Other Industries” on Thursday, October 20, 9:30 a.m. at the PrecisionAg Vision Conference. For more information on the event, visit

The world’s energy companies have garnered a reputation for being technologically advanced, and certainly, to a significant degree, they are.  However, the technological sophistication they possess is not evenly distributed across their enterprises, nor does it permeate all levels (and sizes) of organizations.

It may surprise you to know that many oil field operations are often carried out today with the same rudimentary methods used decades ago.  Why?  Perhaps the search for an alternative has not been a priority for the end user or their organization. Or maybe options have been implemented, yet fell short of their intended results, and so the old method or technology remains in use.

Regardless of the cause, I would argue that the factors affecting successful widespread technology adoption in my industry also apply to the agriculture industry.

My perspective on the issue of technology adoption stems from a decade of experience creating and deploying geospatial technologies within the energy sector.  Through successful and unsuccessful attempts, I have found the geospatial technologies that have been the most widely adopted in my industry and taken up because they met the following conditions:

1)    The technology solved a real problem that needed solving.

2)    The technology targeted the right audience, whose needs were well-known and understood.

3)    The technology was created, tested, and continually refined through real-world experience.

4)    The technology fit within the end user’s ecosystem (environment, workflows, equipment, existing technology, etc.)

5)    The technology was quickly learned and used by the intended audience.

As I learn more about the agriculture industry, it appears to me that we in the energy business share many of the same challenges relating to technology innovation and adoption.

For example, we struggle with deriving useful, practical knowledge from the inundation of data streaming in from machinery and field sensors, weather, soil, and chemistry data, and real-time feedback from field operations.

And we hear that big data could be the answer.  We have various systems providing data and repositories storing it and we spend a lot of time managing and massaging it to get the information we need when and how we need it.  And we see that standardizing our data collection methods, platforms, and data could be the answer.  We have sales people and technology/industry experts showing us all manner of solutions aimed at making our jobs easier and more efficient and our lands more productive and profitable.  And we wonder which of them are merely solutions in search of problems and which of them could be the answer.

Undoubtedly, the road ahead for both our industries will continue to be paved and extended by technological innovation.  Our role as providers of food and energy for a growing world will require that we internalize the success factors above and use them as mileposts along the way. In so doing we make the case for “problem-driven” industries within which the promise of technology is realized through a relentless focus on solving the real problems of the intended targets of innovation.


“Top 10” Precision Leader Wade Barnes to Highlight Panel Discussion on Global Ag

content_wadebarnes1Wade Barnes, CEO of Farmers Edge and recently named one of the “Top 10 People in Precision Agriculture” by PrecisionAg Media, will key an expert-panel discussion on “The Global View of the Digitization of Agriculture” at the premiere PrecisionAg Vision Conference.

Once an agronomist in his native Manitoba Province, Canada, Barnes has built Farmers Edge into an organization with nearly 300 employees specializing in everything from data science to hardware engineering, to soil science and sustainability.

Barnes will be joined on the international panel by Dan Hodgson, President, FarmQA; Jim Chambers, CEO, Observant; Robb Dunn, Cropping Systems Specialist, FarmWise; and Guillermo Salvatierra, CEO and CTO, Frontec SA.

Read PrecisionAg Media’s full list of the “Top 10 People in Precision Agriculture” here.


The Promise — and Challenges — of Ag Tech Are Clear

By Rob Dongoski, Global Agribusiness Industry Leader, EY

Dongoski, a speaker at the inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference, considers the far-ranging impacts technology is likely to make on global agriculture and food. His presentation will be on “The Agriculture Perspective: Successes and Challenges in Building a Digital Strategy.”

Successful technology is not just about gadgets, data, science advancements, or the infrastructure that enables all of these to function. Success is measured more by how these interact with each other, bring a differentiated experience to the customer/user, and drive value – real or perceived.  We have all seen buzz words come and go, but the prospects of the Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, and machine learning appear to be more grounded in evolution than revolution.

While some of these technologies are not entirely new, the ability to produce them at reasonable costs and scale are what may spur meaningful innovation to unlock value in today’s agriculture economy.  We have all heard that population growth to nearly 10 billion people will require 70% more food on only 10% more land.  While this sounds daunting, we have also seen estimates that we waste 30% of our food and that farmers in emerging markets achieve only 30% of their yield potential. If the application of technology is harnessed appropriately and supported by the right infrastructure and policy, I am confident it can close these gaps.

However, we should also be prepared that increased technology use may introduce new challenges as well.  For example, it is conceivable that at some point a consumer in a grocery will routinely be able to use their mobile phone to read the label on the beef in the freezer section and know where the cow was raised, how it was fed, and how it was harvested. While this may satisfy the consumer’s desire to “know their food,” it may also raise challenges related to privacy, supply chain transparency, and bioterrorism.  I can certainly envision a day in the very near future where IoT, analytics, and machine learning will create significant value – real and perceived – to the everyday farmer.

Wide-scale technology adoption and impact will need to adapt to the diversity of farming across the world. The 5,000-acre U.S. farmer is certainly different than the subsistence farmer in Ghana. However, just like Africa “leapfrogged” telephony with the mobile phone, will technologies be available in agriculture that allow for a similar leapfrog effect that will transform the subsistent farmer at a rapid rate?

The investment in ag tech is evidence of the impact to be created and the transformation underway in this industry. But, never forget the long-lasting principle – “know thy customer” – if you truly want to make a difference.  The promise of ag tech is clear, but the ability to scale and drive adoption and farmer profit ultimately will determine if the potential is realized.

CAPA Endorses, Supports Vision Conference

CAPA-LogoLargeThe Coalition to Advance Precision Agriculture (CAPA), comprised of trade associations and organizations representing a diverse range of sectors within the agriculture industry, has announced its official support and endorsement of the PrecisionAg Vision Conference. CAPA organizations include:

  • AgGateway
  • Agricultural Retailers Association
  • American Farm Bureau Federation
  • American Farmland Trust
  • American Seed Trade Association
  • American Soybean Association
  • Association of Equipment Manufacturers
  • Council for Agricultural Science and Technology
  • CropLife America
  • Field to Market – The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Irrigation Association
  • National Agricultural Aviation Association
  • National Association of Wheat Growers
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • National Cotton Council of America
  • Solutions from the Land
  • The Fertilizer Institute


Reservations Filling Fast For The PrecisionAg Vision Conference

There’s still time to claim your place at the inaugural PrecisionAg® Vision ConferenceSM, October 18-20, 2016 in Phoenix, AZ. This strategic conference is focused on the future of farm digitization and precision agriculture.

The PrecisionAg Vision Conference is your opportunity to meet with some of the brightest agriculture leaders, technology, and data experts from around the globe as they examine the big trends and technologies that will impact the ag industry over the next decade.

Key topics on the power-packed agenda include:

  • Solving World Hunger with Ultra-High Volume Smart Sensors
  • Where does big data fit into crop production agriculture?
  • Food Manufacturing & Precision Ag: Emerging Links
  • Solving Big Problems: Innovation Through Open Collaboration
  • Regulation, Policy, and Precision
  • The Internet of Things: How will it shape Agriculture?

See the full conference agenda.

Act now as limited space is available.