Covering Disruptive Technology Powering Business in The Digital Age

Home > Archives > News > Big data on the cusp of a revolution in agriculture
Big data on the cusp of a revolution in agriculture
July 5, 2016 News

Big data is a concept more often discussed in relation to Silicon Valley or online marketing, but that potential for vast bodies of farming data to be collated in central databases is just starting to emerge.

Nuffield Scholar Jonathan Dyer said when new technological platforms take off in the near future, big data from across the industry will help farmers make important decisions, including how and where they plant or fertilise.

“We [farmers] deal with the natural world in all its infinite complexity,” he said.

“To understand that, we can collect data on farm, whether it is yield data from our crops, seeding or fertilising.

“If you collect enough of it, you can start to analyse it just in your farm office.

“To a lot of farmers, that is probably big data, because that’s a concept they’ve not been used to.

“But you can take that principle and keep getting wider and wider out. Then you can compare with five or six neighbours and compare how your crops are performing and start to learn that way,” Mr Dyer said.

“And then it goes all the way through to the companies in the United States that are aggregating farm data across millions of acres and looking at yield trends and predicting yields for the [United States Department of Agriculture.]

“Probably for us farmers, it starts on farm, but [the question is] how big do you want to take it?”

‘Big data’ is the term used to describe massive collections of information are gathered in the digital world and stored in a database to be collated.

The numbers can be crunched to come up with useful patterns and modelling.

One obvious example is the way social media platforms gather details about hundreds of millions of individual users and provide snapshots to their advertisers, who then have tailored information about their audiences.

However, big data can also be used for other purposes.

To an extent, the process has begun in agriculture.

Most modern farm machinery is capably of collecting data and transferring it to a database, although Mr Dyer said few farmers bothered to use it.

He predicted one company would eventually establish the dominant farming application for big data, in the same way Google become the dominant search engine.

Who that company will be is anyone’s guess.

Mr Dyer has a strong pedigree in this topic.

He grew up on his family’s grain farm in Kaniva, western Victoria, but studied information technology and started a career in that field.

After a few years working in front of the computer, Mr Dyer decided to return the farm and is now a grower with his family.

His unique skill set led him to explore the growing connection between information technology and farming.

With his Nuffield Scholarship, Mr Dyer last year travelled on research trips to the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Mexico and Israel.

His report will be released later this year.

This article was originally published on and can be viewed in full