The U.S. Department of Agriculture has its sights set on continuous digital transformation via hybrid IT as it works toward a future in precision agriculture, says Michael Valivullah, CIO at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Precision agriculture is powered by data collected from satellites, combines, variable planters, and field sensors. Digital transformation means automating that process, implementing mission to mission communication, and dialing up analysis tools and computational models for predictive analytics, Valivullah says.
“Our idea is not to ask the farmers for the information if that information is available and mission readable,” Valivullah says. “We will be able to gather that information and reduce the burden on the farmer, and also it will decrease the number of errors that manual processes provides.”
As the organization moves forward, augmented and virtual reality have joined the growing pool of new and innovative technologies like web services, cloud and the internet of things.
In the near future, Valivullah says USDA NSAA hopes to implement “cognitive competence,” or the ability to provide information to users before they ask for it.
“Imagine a scenario where you would be there in the field with [farmers] virtually, in terms of augmented realities, and you could hear the farmer tell you what they think is the real deal and what the growth is going to be,” Valivullah says. “You can validate that information right there, and by virtually being there.”
The USDA looks at hybrid IT in agriculture based on risk and mission, focusing on how this technology can tangibly benefit the organization and its customers, according to Valivullah.
“We would like to look at hybrid IT in a way that actually adds value, not just for the sake of new technology,” he says.
The organization has seen increased agility, capacity and efficiency since adopting hybrid IT, Valivullah says, explaining that agility is the USDA NASS’s top priority. Where it once took two weeks to set up a server, the same process can now happen within hours.
Hybrid IT allows for background support of legacy systems while the organization takes advantage of new technology, a bimodal system that Valivullah says will be an endless technological evolution.
“I think it is going to be a continuous transition towards digital transformation … I don’t see an end,” Valivullah says.
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