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Big Data: What’s the Big Deal?

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

By Ashley Ellixson

Man pointing at a map on a computer (Image courtesy of Google Images).
Man pointing at a map on a computer (Image courtesy of Google Images).

You see it all over the Internet, local and national news stations, but what actually is “big data” and what do you need to know about it as pertains to agriculture? In short, “big data” is aggregated data (a bunch of information) gathered from numerous farming operations. For example, if you are growing corn, this could be data of how many seeds you planted per acre, how many acres, when, and where, and then combined with all other corn growers in your geographic region. This data is then shared with an agriculture technology provider (ATP), such as Monsanto or John Deere, through a cloud-based system.

The benefits of “big data” can be vast. For example, it has the potential to assist in developing prescriptive planting programs, customized fertilizer if data has to do with soil, pesticide application, hybrid seed selection, and so on. With that said, there are also concerns when working with an ATP and the use of “big data.” Today, I will briefly cover some of the areas that you need to be aware of when considering entering into a contract with an ATP and the use of your farm’s individual data.


Who Owns “Big Data”?

One of the major questions that arise when discussing “big data” is: Who owns the data the ATP gathers from my farm? Is it the farmer’s? Does the ATP now own it? First, let us look at what it means to “own” something. Legally speaking, when you own something you have the following rights:


Man pointing on an iPad in front of a tractor (Image courtesy of Google Images).
Man pointing on an iPad in front of a tractor (Image courtesy of Google Images).
  1. Right to POSSESS

  2. Right to USE

  3. Right to ENJOY

  4. <