OSU grad student sets world record for precision ag data collection.

By Jason Jenkins | Photos By Matt Reese, Ohio Country Journal and Courtesy of Trey Colley

From the moment Trey met Terra last summer, he had to know everything about her. The pair worked together on a project at Ohio State University’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center, just west of Columbus. As the days passed and weeks turned into months, it was clear that Trey was completely infatuated.

Trey Colley

Trey Colley

But, like most summer romances, the relationship was destined to end when fall arrived. Though Terra is gone, Trey always will look back on the experience with satisfaction. After all, they set a world record together.

The object of Trey Colley’s infatuation was “Terra Byte,” a 114-day corn hybrid plant seeded May 16, 2017, in a 100-acre field just off Interstate 70. While the OSU graduate student was still awaiting final confirmation from Guinness World Records in late December, it’s likely that he and the Ohio State Precision Agriculture Team now hold the record for most data collected over a growing season on a single corn plant.

The project’s aim was novel: Collect as much data as possible using precision agriculture technologies, and then evaluate each tool for its potential to deliver a return on investment for growers. From weather station data and aerial imagery to time-lapse cameras and soil sensors, the researchers gathered layer after layer of data about Terra, ending with final harvest data.

At first, Colley hoped to collect 300 megabytes of data about Terra during the entire season. That goal was shattered by the end of July when the total reached nearly 4 gigabytes. The OSU team set a new target of 10GB for the season. Terra was harvested Oct. 2, and the final data tally was 18.5GB—more than 60 times the original goal—and a whopping 28MB per corn kernel.

“The purpose of this project was to provide an assessment of these technologies, quantify their value and develop a digital strategy,” says Colley, who was still processing all the information they collected. “We were shocked to see the amount of data collected, and we definitely learned a lot about the types of digital tools and services available. Reaching 18.5GB was a great goal to achieve and sets the bar high for 2018.”