How to Develop a Data-Driven Plan: Purposeful Collection

This is the first in a three-part series on purposeful data collection and activation.

You would never start building a home without a blueprint or embark on a cross-country road trip without a GPS, so why would you go into a growing season without crafting a plan for what you want to learn and improve? 

Data collection in agriculture is nothing new, but our team feels strongly that farmers shouldn’t collect data just for the sake of collecting data. It’s imperative to make a plan at the start of each season to purposefully guide data collection by outlining specifically what you’d like to learn. 

What do you Want to Learn? 

Start by having a discussion with your team and external advisors to ask important questions like

  • Are our inputs being applied efficiently?  
  • Which hybrids are performing best and on which fields?  
  • Which fields are providing the highest ROI? 
  • Which fields are better off with different seed traits? 
  • What is my estimated yield? 
  • How much grain will we have to store or sell? 

The goals of each operation will help dictate the right questions to ask. These are just a few examples of the key questions Granular can help you answer.  

Working Toward Specific Goals = Purposeful Data Collection   

When you know what you want to learn, you can reverse engineer your data collection plan in a way that allows you to gather insights and make changes to your operation along the way or next season.

For example, if your goal is to optimize your inputs, set up a trial for fertilizer or nutrient impact by comparing strips in one field instead of comparing field to field. Because every acre is different, this will be the closest comparison and help you see which products are serving your needs most optimally. If you’re comparing fungicides this summer, be sure to include both negative and positive controls – the new product you’re testing, the old product you’ve used and compare those to an untreated area.  

This is also a great time to tap into your Granular rep to confirm what you need to measure and how you’ll do it. Granular Insights provides simple, straightforward analysis on how your agronomic decisions are impacting your bottom line. Granular Agronomy provides science and support to ensure you’re applying the right inputs at the right acre. And if you’re looking for in-depth cost of production, Granular Business can help hone in on variables field-by-field while also increasing overall operational efficiency and helping you track inventory. Long story short, there’s a tool for what you want to do — but first, you have to understand what you want to measure.

Consistency is Key 

Capturing data on your operation may not have been a priority in the past, but you’ve always known it’s important. Your team may have multiple sources of data sitting there and know that it’s valuable, but not sure exactly what to do with it.  

Get started with a consistent data collection method so you can compare year-over-year (YOY) data in the coming seasons. For example, if your goal is optimal seeding rate, keep other variables constant. Document the chosen variables for each field so you can keep them consistent YOY.  

Choosing which type of data you’re collecting for a field trial is part of consistent collection. Determine what data you’re collecting as well as how it will be collected and how often, then stick to that plan.  

Finally, make sure you and your team are all being consistent with documentation. From the names of fields, variety names, inputs and more, get everyone on the same page when labeling to adhere to consistency. 

Use Data to Optimize Your Operation  

 By implementing an intentional data collection strategy, you can make the data work for you, instead of you working to get it. This will help the journey of using data to get your operation where you want it to be successful.  

Part two of this blog series will help you see the importance of understanding the land you’re working with and how to get the most from it. Finally, part three will help you discover the ways to make impactful changes based on key learnings you gather each year.  

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