The Food Chain–Papers, Possessions, and Precision Agriculture in a Cloudy Environment
Writer’s note: The writer is a very pro-technology person who is also a very strong supporter of individual freedom. It can make for quite a combination on some topics, like Precision Agriculture!
“This provision (the 4th Amendment) speaks for itself. Its plain object is to secure the perfect enjoyment of that great right of the common law, that a man’s house shall be his own castle, privileged against all civil and military intrusion.” — Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) US Supreme Court Justice 1833http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Joseph.Story.Quote.8610
The United States of America is at the pinnacle of world prominence for food production. No one makes more, ships more, sells more and gives more away for humanitarian aid. I say this with complete humility and thankfulness to be a part of that industry. As I have stated before, it is my opinion that to be involved in agriculture is to be involved in one of the highest callings. It is my view that the United States has risen to that pinnacle due to many geo-cultural-political reasons put in place by the Creator.
A Changing Landscape
I have had an opportunity to work with, network with and spend a good amount of my time working on and considering various parts of Precision Technology. Agronomic technology tools are starting to take their place on the “App Scene” of smartphones and other mobile devices. These tools can be a tremendous resource for helping the farmer, nations, and the world produce safe, secure and sustainable sources of food. It takes all three S’s to make it work and technology is in the driver’s seat in the United States and other nations to make this happen.
The Mother Lode of Big Data
Hang in there with me on this…..I’m going to get a little geeky in this section.
Smartphone adaptation rates are the highest in areas of the world without an existing landline infrastructure. And, in the process, farmers around the world can become interconnected. I regularly connect with professionals in the industry from around the world and discuss ideas and views on issues. I asked a longtime acquaintance, and very skilled, Precision Ag Specialist his estimate on how much data can be created for one acre of land. His reply was that one acre of ground will generate about 2 MP of raw data every year. Doing the math, you are looking at 18 Terabytes of raw, unprocessed data for one million acres of ground–every year. How much information is that? By one estimate, that is almost equal to 20 Libraries of the Unite States Congress….ever year….for just 1,000,000 acres. This information does not include the various things for the farm business like balance sheets, bank statements, asset ledgers, payroll, and receipts.
Knowledge is Power
With the computer power of the Cloud, we can do some very impressive things with this information. Agronomist, field scouts, grain merchandisers, suppliers, lenders, and, yes, government, can all benefit from this information. It is the Mothers Milk to the farm and treated as such. There is no compromise. One day I had a group lunch meeting with a gentleman from one of the more prominent data management companies of agriculture in the United States, and possibly, the world. We were engaged in a good conversation and at one point I asked him how long until we had a “universal platform” and all information could share across different business functions and software. He had said that his company along with industry leaders were tasked with making all data shareable within the next five years by the U.S. government. That conversation occurred in 2012. We are ahead of schedule with virtually all farm data now being shareable across all various types of software.
So, with this explosion of computing power and data gathering, are we being equally diligent in the protection of personal and intellectual property? I had a small precision ag department during my career in fertilizer retail, and one thing that became apparent was the vast amount of trust put into the hands of the retailer by the farmer. Encyclopedias worth of information being routinely given freely to use with the understanding of the farmer gaining a more sustainable and profitable business. It is a very intimate relationship that deserves respect.
Now, when we step back out and take a look from the Million Acre level we see something that is more of a national concern, let alone a local, individual farmer’s concern. Such information is perhaps THE most valuable type. A nation and an industry, must take very deliberate actions, with all due prejudice, to make sure that the “papers and possessions” of the farmer are protected as set forth by the Constitution of the United States. The tools we now have today are unlike those we have ever seen before. Our Creator endowed us with such talents as to be able to create and develop such systems. The stakes are high, and we have the whole world looking at the farmer for food. With such power also comes an equally high level of individual and social responsibility. At least in the United Sates we do have a Constitution that helps to protect such highly sensitive personal information. I suggest that we keep this issue on the front burner before we abuse such an opportunity.
Hey, remember, how I opened up stating some facts about the United States? Maybe the reason it had the opportunity in the first place to do all of that and more is because the Founding Fathers put such a thing as the Fourth Amendment in place.
The writer strongly supports agriculture and those who make it their job providing food to a growing world. This article is written to make all of us stop from our hectic lives and think if even for a minute, about what the various issues of agriculture could mean to us and future generations to come. Thanks for reading!