New Technology Will Merge Farm-Management Data

A collaborative project promises to remove the language barrier among different data systems on farms.

“How can a rainbow cause growers problems?” asks Andres Ferreyra, Ph.D., manager of special projects at Ag Connections, a wholly owned subsidiary of Syngenta. “When they have equipment that’s green, red, yellow and blue, representing different manufacturers, and none of it speaks the same language,” he answers.

Overcoming the Language Barrier

For all the promises on which precision ag can deliver—including reduced input costs, increased yields and greater labor savings—the language barrier among different proprietary data systems has proven to be an obstacle to further efficiencies. If the tractor, combine and sprayers, for instance, are all using different data formats, a grower’s farm-management software can have a hard time understanding the data and using it meaningfully.

“Growers want to grow,” says Tarak Reddy, a product lead for John Deere Intelligence Solutions Group. “They are not trying to get a Ph.D. in farm-management software.”

That’s why Ag Gateway, a nonprofit consortium of more than 230 ag businesses, is leading an industry-wide project, known as the Agricultural Data Application Programming Toolkit (ADAPT). Syngenta and Ag Connections are members, as are a host of software companies, equipment builders, chemical manufacturers and ag retailers.

With ADAPT, manufacturers can still use their proprietary software, but they can also build plug-ins that allow their systems to translate between their own format and a common data model. In other words, “ADAPT is a translator that allows growers to speak with the rest of the world,” says Tyler McGee, system architect with Syngenta.

Leveraging Efficiencies

Syngenta and Ag Connections have played important roles in the yearslong process of bringing ADAPT to life. Ferreyra has worked as one of the key data architects, and McGee is the project manager. Additionally, Shannon Haringx, marketing technology lead at Syngenta, is spearheading communication efforts for the project; and Stuart Rhea, a software developer at Ag Connections, chairs the ADAPT Technical Team.

Growers have so much data flowing in and out of their farm-management systems today that it can be hard to know what to do with it all, says Ferreyra. Using ADAPT-compatible farm-management software, such as Land.db® from Ag Connections, growers will not only be able to find efficiencies on their own land, but also export complete regulatory reports and share their information with retailers and advisers.

Today, this exchange of information is not seamless and can lead a busy grower to much frustration and stress. There also aren’t a lot of do-overs when it comes to farming.

“Growers want to grow. They are not trying to get a Ph.D. in farm-management software.”

Tarak Reddy
“You can’t harvest a field again if the data is wrong the first time,” says Mark Stelford, general manager of Premier Crop Systems and chair of the ADAPT Oversight Committee. “People can get upset very quickly—and rightly so—if their systems aren’t working well together.”

ADAPT is moving closer to deployment. In 2017, companies are building plug-ins and implementing trial runs to see how the data flows through the system. Some farm-management systems may be ready to put ADAPT into production mode in 2018, Reddy says.

Cooperative Brain Power

Although many of the companies that participate in Ag Gateway compete head-to-head in the marketplace, when it comes to ADAPT, they all work together. Syngenta, Ag Connections and their competitors all believe in the power of ADAPT to revolutionize precision agriculture. What is good for one company is good for all.

“We collectively defined a precompetitive space,” Ferreyra says. “If we collaborate, it will be better for everyone. Then each company can focus on making its products better, instead of competing with one another on the basic infrastructure we all need.”

Ferreyra has become an ADAPT evangelist of sorts, encouraging companies to participate by building plug-ins for their software. Over a couple of months earlier this year, he visited Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, spreading the message of ADAPT.

“We’ve reached a critical mass,” he says. After years of cooperative development work, now it’s time for individual companies to step up and join the project with their own technology. “We’re encouraging participation all over the world.”

End of the Journey

A collaborative project promises new technology to merge #farmmanagement data.

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In the not-too-distant future, when ADAPT is fully up and running, and companies—big and small—have contributed their pieces to the puzzle, growers won’t even realize the system is working. The different pieces of software will seamlessly co-exist, doing the complicated number-crunching work that before had been impossible. Growers will just see the results.

The people behind ADAPT are excited those days are drawing nearer. It has been a long and sometimes difficult journey to get to this point. McGee likens the ADAPT-building process to a county work crew installing a water line.

“There’s very little glory in the installation process,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s something we all need in order to thrive.”