Data is the New Oil

“Why do all these darn digital tools never work on my farm?!”

This phrase is uttered by almost every farmer who interacts with agriculture technology. That begs the question: How can the industry make better and more user-friendly digital products for everyday farmers?

Data is often referred to as the “new oil.” We hear it all the time across every industry but especially in the modern era of agriculture. So many digital tools have, and are, coming out for farmers and ranchers. Some of these tools are to collect data, and some are made to utilize that collected data. However, throughout agriculture, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly—a wide spectrum of quality and relevancy.

Farmers and ranchers have different amounts of success when using these tools, leading to a loss of trust when a tool is marketed as complete. A reason for this is that digital tools are often marketed as a one-size-fits-all solution, not taking into account the uniqueness of each farm or ranch environment. Not all farm implements work the same on each field, why should data?

It is for this reason that Grand Farm is launching the Grand Farm Data Hub. This is a tool for anyone in agriculture to find, store, consolidate, and create agriculture data.

With all agriculture public data at the fingertips of technology developers, marketed digital tools will be more relevant and effective for each individual farm and ranch. The Grand Farm Data Hub is connecting technologists to the metaphorical oil wells, connecting the oil wells together, and bringing together the oil into a standard product. We also foresee, in the future, giving farmers and ranchers the ability to add their own data to the Grand Farm Data Hub, where companies can pay farmers directly for the data they utilize.

If data is the new oil, it has to be refined in order to be valuable. Each farm or ranch needs its own custom product to fit the unique needs of their operation. Doing this is extremely difficult. To make a digital tool that uses artificial intelligence, it has to be given nearly every single scenario in order to provide a relevant solution. Artificial intelligence works by finding patterns in information, and making sense of that pattern. This requires a vast amount of data representing all of the farms and ranches the tool is meant to be applied to. Collecting this data is extremely timeconsuming and expensive, requiring people, access to land, and time.

For decades, the US Department of Agriculture and universities across the country have been collecting data. Once research is completed with the collected data, it is often packed away and stored online. Since this data was collected using tax dollars, it is often provided to the public for free use with few exceptions. Each package of data is called a data set. Individual data sets aren’t exactly hard to find, but finding and bringing together multiple of these sets is extremely difficult. This is because, unlike oil, there are no standards for data. Data comes in all shapes and sizes, even if it was collected for exactly the same thing.

Grand Farm entered this conversation in 2019. There was a two-day conversation at the Microsoft Campus in Fargo, North Dakota called “Big Data, Big Ideas.” Stakeholders from both the agriculture and technology industry were brought together to discuss what to do with this data to advance the industry. There were conversations about data standards, data privacy, data security, and data ownership. Since then, Grand Farm has been working regularly towards bringing together the technology and agriculture industry to solve these challenges.

This Future Farmer issue focuses on the experience growers, startups, corporations, and higher education researchers have in the development and utilization of artificial intelligence tools for agriculture. Throughout the article, we will examine different cases of how this concept can advance agtech.

  • Mark Ottis, a farmer from Kindred, North Dakota, will share his experience of using decision-making tools to increase crop yields.
  • Microsoft will discuss their efforts in developing digital tools specifically for agriculture.
  • Kirkwall, a startup from North Dakota, will talk about the importance of data in protecting farms from cyber threats. They will show how the Data Hub can provide the information needed to build robust security measures.
  • Dr. Rex Sun, an Associate Professor at NDSU, will highlight the significance of collecting data for developing artificial intelligence tools.
  • Intellias, a global technology solutions provider, will explain how they are working with Grand Farm to make the Data Hub user-friendly and accessible for the entire industry.

We invite you, a stakeholder of agriculture, to provide thoughts and feedback on the Grand Farm Data Hub at We also host dozens of events throughout the year open to participation both at the Grand Farm Innovation Campus and online.


William Aderholdt

Director of Grand Farm


Read the article published in Future Farmer.