CAAR joins an industry-driven organization working to improve eConnectivity in ag.
From smartphones to precision agriculture, farmers and retailers have embraced technology at home and in their operations. The transition to digital ag, however, is not without its growing pains. One of the biggest challenges that producers, agronomists and retailers are facing is connectivity or, rather, a lack of connectivity between the many hardware and software systems used by the industry.
CAAR executive director Mitch Rezansoff says the challenge stems from a lack of an industry standard for how data is stored, transferred and used. While there are a multitude of systems similarly collecting and analyzing data, they have different file formats and can’t “talk” to each other. Data can be transferred from Device A to Device B but not to Device C, for example, making it difficult to manage the data that is collected from the various sources.
Issues with Compatibility
Rezansoff first became aware of the issue within the precision ag areas of farm data collection, aggregating information and insight development. Coming from an equipment background, he knew firsthand the challenges posed by incompatible data systems.
“Many farm data systems are not compatible with each other,” says Rezansoff. “Multiple start-up systems have been introduced, but farmers have had to choose one to ensure compatibility because there is little to no opportunity to move collected data from one platform to another. The same is true for retailers.”
Rezansoff says this struggle with interoperability, the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and use information, has made much of the industry hesitant to make significant investments to support farm data collection and digital upgrades within the supply chain.
He says the answer is not one exclusive system, but rather multiple compatible data systems and solution providers using one set of industry-wide standards to drive innovation.
Setting a Standard
The organization whose mission it is to create these standards and move the industry toward better connectivity is Washington-based AgGateway.
AgGateway is a consortium of businesses serving the agriculture industry, with a membership that spans the ag tech value chain – from the software developers to the retailers in the field – and includes leading industry trade associations, international standards groups, state agencies, and academics focused on data exchange issues.
Among the organization’s many initiatives that AgGateway’s communications director, Susan Ruland, says may be of interest to CAAR members is ADAPT (Ag Data Application Programming Toolkit), a framework that addresses the interoperability issue as Rezansoff describes. ADAPT is an open-source project endorsed by major grower organizations to help ag retailers, agronomists and growers better manage data and apply it to make improvements in their operations. ADAPT also makes it easier for farmers and retailers to adopt precision ag technology.
Ruland says that ADAPT’s toolkit can be integrated by in-field Mobile Implement Control Systems (MICS) and office Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) to allow for easy data translation between the two.
Getting on Board
Recognizing the relevance of AgGateway’s activities to its members, CAAR recently joined the non-profit organization as an associate member. Rezansoff says all retailers, regardless of the size of their business, should be aware of the capabilities of AgGateway and he hopes that CAAR’s involvement with AgGateway will help to facilitate that.
“Many of our members deliver agricultural inputs to growers, or are ag retailers,” says Ruland. “AgGateway has already enabled a number of these sectors – crop nutrition, crop protection, seed and others – to standardize transactions and business processes linked to retail.”
Ruland says that through their involvement with AgGateway, retailers have boosted their efficiency, accuracy and productivity by streamlining transactions in price sheets, contracts, ordering, delivery, invoicing, sales reporting and inventory management.
A Future-Proof Solution
According to Rezansoff, CAAR members can future-proof their own operations by looking for opportunities to connect some of their own activities to AgGateway solutions. In addition to saving valuable time and resources, he says retailers can avoid costly missteps, such as getting locked into purchasing systems with limited compatibility, by insisting on systems developed using AgGateway standards.
When companies come to retailers with proposals for data management systems, one of the first questions they need to ask is, ‘Are you following AgGateway?’
“When companies come to retailers with proposals for data management systems, one of the first questions they need to ask is, ‘Are you following AgGateway principles and are you compatible with AgGateway tools?’” he says. “If they are, then, ‘OK, let’s talk.’ If they’re not, ‘Well, come back to me when you are.’”
Retailers who want to learn more about AgGateway will have the opportunity to do so in person at the 2020 CAAR Conference in Saskatoon. Representatives from AgGateway will be in attendance as tradeshow exhibitors and will participate in a panel discussion along with retailers from across North America who have implemented AgGateway systems in their own retails.
AgGateway has about 200 member companies from many different areas of agriculture, along with associate members including state agencies and trade associations. Some of AgGateway’s prominent members include:
- Albaugh, LLC
- Agricultural Retailers Association
- Arysta LifeScience
- Crop Life America
- Decisive Farming
- Farmers Edge
- The Fertilizer Institute
- International Raw Materials
- Koch Ag and Energy Solutions
- Nutrien Ag Solutions
- Tronia Systems
- WinField United
Click here to read member case studies.
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