Plants aren't the Only Things Growing on your Farm

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Why Harvesting Your Small Data Pays Off

By Benjamin Allen

While the world continues to focus on the trend toward Big Data, farmers should be thinking Small Data. 

There’s not much a grower can do with large data sets — leave that to the tech geeks and their algorithms! Instead, focus on the data and details related to what you do on your farm, when you do it and what the results you get — field by field.


From the mounds of data captured by the monitors in your equipment, to the satellite images taken from space, the amount of information specific to your farm grows each year.

As the corn plants push up through the soil on their way to being knee high by the fourth of July, the amount of data they create grows as well. The soil conditions, weather reports and product application details are all key pieces of information when used in combination with yield data can help make production decisions in a much more granular way.

How does this help you and your farm? It’s all about decision support. As your profit margins get tighter and the complexity of your operation grows, you need better information that is easily available to make important decisions. With better information you can make better decisions about which inputs to use, when to use them, and how much to use without overspending. It’s about the pennies in these types
of market years.


This fall, you have several more key pieces of information to track, including harvest yield data, temperature and humidity information from your storage bins, and sales contracts. Not only are you managing the inevitable complexities of storage to get the most for your crop as it crosses your buyers’ scales, you also need to  plan financially for tighter cash flows and making sure that your inventory, sales contracts and financial plans are tightly aligned. This takes a new level of information management — something beyond what your memory or a spiral notebook can provide.

In the end, remember that for individual growers, it’s all about the Small Data, the information specific to your farm that helps you run your operation. 

Knowing macro trends won’t change your life and for the most part, it won’t help you make better decisions. However, dialing in on your own farm and gaining a better understanding of the details will help by supporting better decisions. 

Bring it all home by minding the small things, and the big data will take care of itself.


Benjamin Allen is the Chief Revenue Officer of Agri-Trend Inc., and he can be reached at

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