Doing more with big data: Some online tools to help your business

By Gabrielle Stannus

All businesses are accustomed to dealing with the flow of information. These days, extremely large data sets are now generated and stored online. This ‘big data’ may be worth nothing to your business unless you and your employees are able to analyse it to reveal meaningful patterns, trends and associations. Where are generating and storing your data? What data already exists that may help your business profit? Would you like to do more with it for free?

G Suite
Google’s G Suite of office tools includes Google Docs, Google Sheets, and even Google Slides. Unlike Microsoft Office, the basic G Suite is free although has limited features (business plans are available). You work online, so more than one person can edit at the same time, with documents automatically saved to your shared Google drive on the ‘cloud’. No software is needed. You just need a Google account, which you probably already have if you use a Gmail address.

Dropbox is a secure online file sharing, back up and storage solution. Files in your Dropbox folder stay updated on every device linked to your account. Dropbox minimises the hardware your business needs to store data by saving to the ‘cloud’. There are both free and professional accounts for file sharing.

There’s a lot of ‘good’ data already out there, with much of it available for free, and some even comes with analysis.

Google My Maps
By now, you are probably all familiar with Google Maps and Google Earth. Well, the free Google My Maps tool allows you to create and share custom maps. You can even import data from a CSV file, spreadsheet or Keyhole Markup Language (KML) into your map. Need more help so you can start creating your map? Google it! And remember to add your business to Google Maps while you are at it for free promotion.

The Bureau of Meteorology's free online MetEye tool helps you visualise local weather observations and forecasts for any location in Australia. You can search for your location and save favourite locations, get a three-hourly forecast for the seven days ahead, and view current conditions including the rainfall radar. Forecasts in MetEye are fine-tuned by Bureau forecasters to best represent expected weather and are routinely updated twice a day.
(Image: Bureau of Meteorology)MetEye helps visualise local weather observations and forecasts for any location in Australia
The Yield Growers’ App
The Yield Free Grower’s App uses data analytics to provide public weather data from a grower’s perspective. It provides all the growing conditions you need from water balance, evapotranspiration and rainfall to humidity and wind speed and direction. Download the app for your mobile phone on the App Store or Google Play.

SoilMapp for iPad

The free SoilMapp for iPad app will provide you with direct access to the best national soil data and information from the Australian Soil Resource Information System (ASRIS) and ApSoil. This app will help you learn about the likely soil types on your property; view maps, photographs, satellite images, tables and graphs of data about nearby soils; and uncover your soil’s physical and chemical characteristics, including acidity (pH), soil carbon, available water storage, salinity and erodibility.

(Image: The Yield via Google Play)The Yield Free Growers’ App

Let’s face it. Many of us are not data coders and probably never will be. What user-friendly platforms exist out there that can help us analyse and/or interpret our data?

Parabola is one visual coding tool, enabling you to work with large data sets, use application programming interfaces (APIs), and automate workflows. If you have data that could exist as a table (picture your favourite spreadsheet tool), you can use Parabola to make manipulating that data easy. Combine data from multiple sources, automate tasks that are performed in spreadsheets, create custom integrations between multiple services, aggregate data into digestible reports plus more. NB. The free version allows data only from two sources: CSV and Excel files.

Now that you have the results from your big data analysis, you may be looking for some research to help you interpret it.
Google Scholar simplifies your online search for scholarly literature, i.e. peer-reviewed credible science. Using this tool, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.
Remember, industry experts can help analyse and interpret your data too!

Agriculture 4.0
Austrade has developed a new digital platform known as Agriculture 4.0 to connect investors with Australian farmers and AgTech start-ups, as well as creating more collaborative research and development opportunities. These technologies include smart farming, sensing technology and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity.

AgTech Finder
The Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) ‘s Agtech Finder is currently in development. This independent online directory will enable users to search, sort and compare all available technology solutions to meet their needs.