A machine's ability to work with data could become one of the main factors driving purchasing decisions.
That is the view of Oliver Wood, precision technology manager for Omnia Precision Agronomy.
Speaking at the Institution of Agricultural Engineers' 'Landwards' conference in Peterborough, he said farmers used to choose machines based on aspects like size, speed and power.
He thinks that might change: "In the future they could choose their machines according to which machine can create the best and most useable data."
The key to harnessing data was to make it easily accessible and of practical value:
“Farmers need to know how they can harness data to make better decisions in their businesses. At the moment most of them turn to their agronomist as the first port of call.
"They need all the data in one place and to be able to analyse it, so it must be easy to use.
“In my experience if it is not easy to use it gets dropped and replaced by something else."
In practical terms, he said farmers could access many individual streams of data on subjects like soil texture and analysis, pests, weeds, past yields, the existing crop's green leaf area and yield potential:
“The user needs to be able to choose which pieces are most important to them and then analyse them on multiple levels to generate an action plan."
New technology – such as gamma ray soil mapping-offered the potential to greatly increase the amount of data available.
While conventional soil testing might be based around eight sampling points spread across a field, gamma ray mapping might take 6,500 points in the same field and investigate 21 different things.
But the key to this huge volume of data being of value was to make the results easily understandable, and 'the cloud' is a key element in this:
“We have to show this data in an easily understandable way, and the quicker we can get away from manually moving it the better."
Farmers must be able to access the results easily and have the freedom to change their response according to what they want to do, he said.
If they don't get value from it, they are likely to reject it: “Data is like a cog in a machine – if it goes wrong it will get replaced."