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My Nuffield Scholarship - Dr. Robert Allen


Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust

 Potato harvesting in the Voronezh region, Russia
Potato harvesting in the Voronezh region, Russia

Data then strategy, or strategy then data?

Capacity to generate on farm data is increasing exponentially through new technologies and data service providers. At the farm level, identifying which solutions offer most value can be a complex, daunting and potentially expensive process. Do you collect data first and devise ways to extract the value or create a strategy first then collect the data? The conclusion from my recent Nuffield Farming Scholarship was that for any business to benefit from data technologies, it’s strategy first.

‘The orchestration of people, process and technology to enable an organisation to exploit data as an asset’ is the best definition of a data strategy I found on my study tour.

People: Identify who will be collecting or looking at the data and where they will be doing it. 

Process: Define the how, what and why are data being collected and used. 

Technology: When evaluating data technology, remember that all innovations that claim to improve the efficiencies of agriculture must be: 1-based on accurate measurements, 2-have the capacity to convert data into an output that can be used by, you, the grower, 3-appropriate for use in answering the agronomic question being asked.

Even with the growth in the number of apps, sensors and data products now available it remains unlikely that there will be a single data solution that meets all requirements. Partly because data requirements and priorities are unique to each farming business. At the farm level, effective use of data will require a toolbox approach, with appropriate data solutions being evaluated and selected for each job. An important component of the toolbox will be willingness to undertake your own data analysis where necessary. Don’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty (metaphorically speaking!).

My Nuffield Scholarship gave me the privilege of being allowed to study farming businesses in North America, Australia, Russia and the UK. Even across the range of crops grown and size of operations I visited the conclusion was the same. Those that had spent time considering what they needed the data to do were using their data assets far more than those who, in some case had spent far more, to create data without a real strategy defining why.

Approximately 20 individuals each year are given the opportunity to research topics of interest in farming, food, horticulture or rural industries with a bursary towards travel and expenses.

For more information, please visit Nuffield Farming's

Source Details

Dr. Robert Allen, Nuffield Scholar

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