Big data, Griffin said, is defined differently by different groups. For him, big data is data too big to be handled within Excel, the common numbers-crunching spreadsheet software. “It’s kind of like the ol’ adage of ‘trying to drink water from a fire hose;’ Imagine that kind of data coming through; it’s hard to capture it all,” said Griffin, who was raised in Arkansas and received a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Purdue University “But big-data systems do capture all that data.”
Where does big data come from? Issues of big data, information privacy and agriculture are not new, he said, and have been around since the mid-1990s when GPS technology opened to the public and started its mass adoption across agriculture. This is when tractor cabs, implements and smart phones began communicating with satellites for precision use.
Precision ag technology, for example, creates monster-sized data, which can include field-specific information on planting, preseason and in-season crop-input choices and investment, management strategies and harvesting practices. Data by itself standing in a vacuum has no value, but once information is gleaned from the data, it then becomes valuable. Companies can use the information to give growers “field prescriptions,” which are valuable to a grower who can focus inputs for optimal yields on a per-field basis