In 2017, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue proclaimed October to be National Cooperative Month. Cooperatives touch everyone’s life in some aspect, since there are 2,106 agriculturally based coops in the nation, with more than 2 million member-owners.
This is great, but what is a cooperative? Why would a whole month be dedicated to this idea? According to dictionary.com and Merriam Webster, here are the best definitions:
- Working or acting together willingly for a common purpose or benefit.
- A jointly owned enterprise engaging in the production or distribution of goods or the supplying of services, operated by its members for their mutual benefit, typically organized by consumers or farmers
- An enterprise or organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services
People gravitate towards cooperatives because of the seven principles: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; member economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training, and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community. All walks of life can participate, meaning life is better, almost standardized in a way.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, electricity and telephone services were readily available in cities, helping citizens lead the best life they could. This put rural Americans at a disadvantage, not having the same capabilities. To standardize life everywhere, cooperatives were formed to bring these services to areas that went without. In doing so, rural Americans experienced the same opportunities as their city counterparts.
In agriculture, retail and producer cooperatives are the most numerous cooperative options. According to Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, “retail cooperatives are a type of “consumer cooperative” which help create retails stores to benefit the consumers- making the retail “our store”. They allow consumers the opportunity to supply their own needs, gain bargaining power, and share earnings.” “Producer cooperatives are created by producers and owned and operated by producers. Producers can decide to work together or as separate entities to help increase marketing possibilities and production efficiency. They are organized to process, market, and distribute their own products. This helps lessen costs and strains in each area with a mutual benefit to each producer.”
With these two cooperative options, why would it not be a popular concept in the agriculture industry? Instances of these cooperatives today include input coops and grain coops. As a grower and a business person, why couldn’t the farmer take the cooperative idea a step further and apply it to ag data/technology? What more could he accomplish being able to compare data anonymously, with neighbors to help them both achieve a better return on investment while being able to access unbiased, independent solutions for their farm?
At Grower Information Services Cooperative, a grower owned data cooperative, this idea is reality. GiSC has partnered with industry leaders to strengthen the cooperative’s initiative. IBM and Main Street Data have partnered with us to help growers be the most productive and profitable they can be. IBM recently launched the IBM Operations Dashboard. This is the most precise and detailed weather app on the market. The app is powered by Watson’s AI technology meaning precision is key—grower members can see weather at their farms with a 500-meter resolution. Besides this, Watson can do crop health sensing via satellite. Main Street Data is exclusively offering the Validator through GiSC. Validator allows growers to upload yield files from their machines. Taking this data, the program analyzes the harvest data and benchmarks your personal data set against a benchmark that was derived from data collected over 7 years, and with 1.3 Billion observations of yields. This “Rosetta Stone” of benchmarks, is in my opinion, the most accurate set of yield data in the world.
Besides these industry-leading partnerships, GiSC offers growers a safe, private space to store data. This private storage allows a farmer to decide what to do with the data, instead of allowing third parties to automatically use it to help them sell more inputs. Rather than being on the defensive–being inundated with biased sales pitches, growers can take this stored data to their trusted agronomist for help. Help meaning better management decisions that are unbiased and independent.
But what does this mean in relation to National Cooperative Month? GiSC was created by growers, for growers, meaning membership is ownership and ownership creates strength. By strengthening a grower, we strengthen his bottom line, his farm management, and the integrity of his land. This idea allows us to be one step closer to providing enough food and fiber for the growing population, by using the limited land to the best of our abilities. By seeing the low hanging fruit left on the tree, growers can make a game plan with their agronomist on how they are going to manage differently in future crop years. By aggregating and comparing data anonymously, insights are provided and encourage the search and discussion around better management decisions through unbiased and independent solutions.
Instead of leaving your data on your jump drive in the junk drawer or allowing third parties to access it for their advantage, use it to help yourself. Help build a cooperative that benefits grower-members by analyzing aggregated data to provide unbiased, independent solutions to show you your farm’s true return on investment.
To learn more about National Cooperative Month, please visit: https://www.coopmonth.coop/