More and more, big data is having a significant effect on how farmers do their jobs. And there is no shortage of ways for farmers to collect data from their farms. There also is no shortage of companies that are willing to, for the right price, help farmers use this data to make their farms run more efficiently.

Tractors and other farm machinery are outfitted with sensors that record information and then upload that information to the cloud. Once this information has been uploaded, farmers are able to use the information to decide what to plant, where to plant it, how to fertilize it, and much more.

When surveyed, farmers list positive results when they use precision technologies that collect weather data, track seed varieties, analyze nutrient applications, and map crop yields. Those farmers also report that the use of precision technology has reduced the cost of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides by approximately 15 percent, and increased crop yields by about 13 percent. More than half of the respondents who are actively farming say they plan to invest in new or additional precision and data technology in the next year or two.

While farmers are benefiting from the collection of this data, they also are concerned that they will lose control over this information after it is uploaded from their farm to the cloud. For example, some farmers have expressed concern that their information could be sold, in the form of agriculture lists, to traders or commodity brokers. They also worry that their information could be used by companies to sell them seed and fertilizers at set prices.

In light of their concerns, farmers want more assurances that their data is – and will remain – their property. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) says data collected from individual farms is a valuable commodity that belongs to the individual farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he is optimistic the increasing amount of farm data will help farmers grow more while helping the environment, but that concerns must be addressed about privacy. One step toward addressing these concerns is the “Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data” document. This document is endorsed and signed by companies like DuPont and farm organizations including the National Corn Growers Association and the National Farmers Union.

Those who signed the agreement state that farmers own the data from their farms and control who gets access to that data. It also says that companies that use collected information cannot use it to speculate on commodity markets.

The AFBF says that it will continue to monitor the issue of big data and farmers. It also is planning a tool that will help farmers evaluate whether or not the contracts they sign safeguard their interests when it comes to big data.

In order to successfully market to farmers, you need solid agriculture leads, mailing lists, and a variety of other marketing tools. Once you have these tools in hand, however, your job has just begun. One of the most common reason marketing to farmers is a challenge is because of the many common misconceptions people have about farmers.

In order to speak to your target audience – in this case, farmers – it is important that you leave all stereotypes at the door. What follows is a list of the some of the most common ones that can be a real impediment to successfully marketing to farmers.

  • All farmers are old. While it is true that the average age of farmers in on the rise (this is true in the general population, as well), there also is a growing number of young, beginning farmers. This is due in part to a variety of programs introduced by Congress and the USDA to support young people interested in farming. These programs include the Agricultural Credit Improvement Act, the Farm Security and Rural Infrastructure Act of 2002, and the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act.
  • All farmers are white. While many farm owners are white there is an increasing number of people – of all races and ethnicities – who are interested in breaking into the farming industry.
  • Farmers are not well-educated. While they may not have degrees in philosophy, farmers are far from uneducated. In order to be a successful farmer, one needs to have an in-depth knowledge of microbiology, ecology, chemistry, economics, carpentry, forestry, and more. Further, many young farmers are starting out after graduating with majors in things like agriculture, land management, and similar fields of study.

While common sense should always dictate marketing decisions when it comes to a particular market segment, it is better to be safe than sorry. That means you need to know who you are talking to before you start a conversation. Here are some facts about farmers you can count on:

  • Farmers generally produce a crop or livestock. In some cases, both. These crops and livestock are in most cases are sold to food processing companies.
  • Farmers receive most of their training on the job – even if they have earned a degree in agriculture or a similar field.
  • Most farmers are self-employed and their duties will vary with the size of their farming operation. Small farmers will typically take care of all day-to-day operations while large farms will have employees that manage particular tasks.
  • Farming can be a challenge financially. So much to do with farming has to do with market fluctuations so a farmer’s financial return can vary greatly from year to year.
  • It is hard to find anyone who works longer or harder than a farmer. Time is always of the essence as farmers fight weather conditions, market fluctuations, and other factors.

Marketing to farmers is a challenge because of the particular nature of the industry. Having a good grasp of farmers and what makes them tick will help your efforts be successful.

Agriculture apps are a big business. With more and more farmers using tablets and smartphones while working in the fields, it’s no surprise that they are searching for apps that can help them do their jobs better.

Finding quality farming and agriculture apps can be a difficult task. This is unfortunate since there are so many quality apps out there that can make a farmer’s workload lighter.

One problem with finding quality farming apps is that it’s hard to know which agriculture apps are really useful. Thankfully, there are ways around this problem. For instance, AgWeb now has an app finder that allows users to search by category, such as markets, business, livestock, and crops.

What follows are some of the apps farmers list as their favorites. But remember, the most popular apps can change quickly – and new ones are popping up daily.

Ag PhD App Suite. This suite of apps includes a field guide, drainage calculator, planting population, a harvest loss calculator, and more.

AgWeb. This app features market news, weather, and other ag-related content. It also is interactive – allowing users to choose the specific content they are interested in.

Climate Basic. From The Climate Corporation, this app enables users to track up-to-the-minute, field-level information such as weather forecasts, soil conditions, and crop growth stage. Farmers also are able to add their own notes and field alerts.

Farm Futures. Farm Futures magazine’s app provides an overview of agriculture news and headlines, along with podcasts.

FarmLogs. Farmers can collect and log detailed information on a per-field basis with this app. Rainfall history, budgets, and inventory management are just some of the information farmers can track using FarmLogs.

Grower’s Edge. Offering a variety of functions, this app includes access to cash prices, market quotes and commentary, news, and weather.

Pioneer/Encirca View. Encirca View allows farmers to record field observations which are then georeferenced for their convenience. When used with the Encirca View website, users also are able to access aggregated data from other Encirca View users.

TractorHouse. A simple way to buy or sell a tractor. The TractorHouse app allows users to browse or list equipment by make, model, price, and location.