The way TKXS’ Chief Data Officer, Preston Fay, sees it, humankind has never before in the history of the world had so much access to so much data.
The most obvious example has been featured on the evening news for months, and presumably, for months to come: COVID-19.
“Think about it,” Preston says, “Every single day, from effectively every county in the country, and virtually every part of the world, we’re seeing unprecedented access to, and reporting on, data. And as frightening as the data is, imagine if we didn’t have it. If our scientists and healthcare providers and leaders didn’t have these numbers, if we didn’t have the science behind it, if we didn’t have a clear view – politics aside – to the daily devastation and damage, our society would be in an even more precarious position than it currently is.”
"As frightening as the data is, imagine if we didn't have it."
Applying data science to business.
That, both in a nutshell and globally, is the value proposition for data science: Gathering data, identifying trends and patterns, and ultimately, using that learning to take meaningful action.
In the instance of COVID-19, the data patterns proved rapid and dangerous disease transmission which led to the meaningful actions of social distancing and self-quarantining. Although the details are not so newsworthy for TKXS clients, the path is the same.
“Our clients have more data and more access to data than ever before,” Preston continues, “But the name of the game isn’t being the company with the most data. It’s being the company who is actually keeping an eye on their data, who is identifying patterns, and ultimately, who is making the best use of their data.”
Using data science allows agricultural manufacturers, for example, to identify patterns in the business performance or other business aspects, empowering them to take advantage of certain market opportunities or prevent or minimize market circumstances.
“This is not a new phenomenon, but the availability of data and tools at our disposal to rapidly analyze and take action are unique in our history. Applied well, data science gives companies significantly greater control over their own destiny,” states Preston.
"The name of the game isn't being the company with the most data;
it's being the company making the best use of their data."
Forget controlling the weather. Take advantage of it, instead.
Weather has always driven farming decisions as to what to plant, when to plant, when to protect, and when to harvest. And farmers (and the organizations that support them) have always sought ways to work around the weather. The Farmer’s Almanac has famously offered weather predictions since 1792, based on astronomical events, tides, weather and other phenomena. Although meteorology has advanced considerably in recent years, Preston isn’t convinced that the ag industry is using that knowledge to its advantage.
“Based on modeling and analysis of long-term weather data, let’s say we can predict within an acceptable margin of error that the spring planting season will be unusually cold and wet in key growing areas of the country – as was the case in 2019,” Preston explains. “A cold, wet spring means farmers will be late getting their crops in the ground. It also means they must change their production practices to account for a delayed planting season.
"But what if, armed with this information, a crop protection manufacturer shifted production toward products more likely to be in high demand (post-plant products), and away from the pre-plant products farmers will likely forego? What if you adjusted your distribution channel accordingly? What if you prepared and educated your salesforce to respond appropriately? Applying data science to agriculture is a game-changer.”
"Applying data science is a game-changer."
The role of data science in agribusiness going forward.
The data scientists at TKXS are actively seeking way to help clients take full advantage of the evolving landscape, by identifying opportunities to institutionalize some of their work into clients’ systems and integrating data from other sources with clients’ sales data.
“It’s data-informed intelligence that nobody else can offer. We’re just scratching at the surface of what’s possible, and we’re continuing to find ways to give our clients a market advantage,” says Preston.
“At the end of the day, what’s the point of collecting all this data if we don’t find a way to make a difference for our clients? Data science is the biggest lever that we can pull to make that happen.”
About Preston Fay: Helping clients drive sales and improve their bottom line is a genuine thrill for Preston. As he often says, "I wake up every day to help clients succeed; in their success, I find my own." Toward that end, he empowers and encourages TKXS’ data science team to think creatively, tackle opportunities, solve problems and drive change. His passion for agriculture is backed up by more than 25 years of analytics and marketing experience.