By Brianna Gratton

Agriculture and big data are coming together to change the face of farming. With the introduction of decision-support platforms, on-farm record keeping has been completely overhauled. Decision-support platforms designed for farm management streamline the record-keeping process by making it much simpler and accessible, while significantly improving value and functionally for the end-user. By allowing farmers to collect and manage their data all in one system, farmers can make informed decisions that improve their bottom line. 

With a multitude of companies providing data management software, choosing the right decision-support platform for an individual operation can be overwhelming and filled with questions, such as:  

Is the system user-friendly? 

Does the method of collecting and visualizing the data work for my operation? 

Does the software provide analytics and actionable insights to utilize all the data to improve the operation? 

Does it work with my other systems? 

At the Olds College Smart Farm, we set out to try and answer a few of these questions. In the past year we have done a comprehensive analysis of a few current decision-support platforms on the market, including: Trimble Ag Software, FCC AgExpert Field, Climate Fieldview, Decisive My Farm Manager and Farmers Edge. Comparing the various software platforms, we’ve completed a comprehensive analysis of the capabilities, functionalities and end use of the products for farmers. 

Other key aspects that we chose to focus on in comparing these platforms was overall cost, ease of use, features and functionality, inter-operability, performance, security and support. Each product is equipped with a certain set of tools for use in a number of areas such as financial tracking, marketing, inventory, crop planning and agronomy. Certain platforms offered all of these features and were then set apart by the level of support and customer service. Others were very specialized in a certain area such as financial or agronomy and crop imagery.

Cost was evaluated in terms of time and effort involved as well as subscription fees to utilize the software. This will allow farmers to see if there is a financial benefit in paying for software and using it for data management and evaluation of in season applications. We can help to remove the buzz and see what aspects work well and sync nicely with other equipment and platforms and which could use some further development. With that also comes the question of security, how secure is all of your data once it has been inputted into the system? Is that data being shared with others and is it still your data? Once you have invested time into importing all your information how easy is it to export it again and in what format? These are important things to keep in mind when making your decisions.

Although this may seem overwhelming and a daunting task, the benefit of utilizing this technology far surpasses that of the initial investment. We hope this project answers some of these big questions you are asking as a farmer when considering which decision support platform will work for you.  

You can find the full project reports through the Olds College website.