Environment

Big Data’s growth can benefit farmers

Thanks to the National Security Agency, “Big Data” is a phrase with heavy baggage.

A lot of us get wigged out worrying about Big Brother’s ability to pry into our private affairs. The NSA is able to collect terabytes of information and sift through it in ways that give us good reason to worry about abuse.

“The history of governments that collect information to gain an advantage on its citizens usually ends badly,” said Kenneth Cukier, author of “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think.”

It is easy to forget, then, that Big Data has another side, one ripe with opportunity and not fraught in peril. Cukier, the London-based data editor for The Economist, made this very point to a group of Hoosier farmers recently, and his message made me less suspicious and more enthused about the potential for data innovation.

The Indiana Soybean Alliance brought Cukier here to delive the keynote address for the annual Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum. Big Data is power, he told me after the gathering, and farmers and suppliers had better figure out how to harness that power collectively — or risk being consumed by it.

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