We are at a true turning point in agriculture, with the data farmers collect every day in the fields now holding the key to future innovation and competitiveness. Farm data, in many ways, is becoming a new currency.
So how do we ensure that farmers are in control of the data they collect and are maximizing it to its fullest potential, while also ensuring it is secure?
There are three initiatives that will be critical to helping farmers cultivate this important asset.
We all know about the importance of investing in infrastructure when it comes to economic growth. It is no different when it comes to technology. Enter AgGateway, a non-profit consortium of more than 230 agriculture companies focused on enabling and expanding eBusiness in agriculture. In the area of farm field operations, an AgGateway team of manufacturer and ag software companies has been working for years to create a framework to allow data to easily flow between various software and hardware applications used by growers and their advisors.
More specifically, AgGateway’s Standardized Precision Ag Data Exchange (SPADE) Project and the new, open-source ADAPT software toolkit will help farmers maximize the value of precision agriculture through seamless and transparent data exchange. This easy exchange of data – or interoperability – has been a formidable hurdle to the use of precision ag technologies. ADAPT provides an easy-to-use framework, with the tools to simplify communication between growers, their machines, and their partners.
Another essential first step to navigating any new frontier is the establishment of guiding principles and transparency. The American Farm Bureau recognized this concern through farmer feedback and developed a set of Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data. Out of these principles grew the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator (ADTE). This tool serves as an independent source to verify that an ag technology provider is being transparent in how it handles a farmer’s data. Companies submit their agreements to the ADTE for review and if the agreement aligns with the principles for data privacy and security, they earn a “seal of approval.” This seal is a quick way for farmers to identify how their data is handled by different companies. As Todd Janzen, attorney and administrator of the project noted, “We want to make the contracts farmers sign with ag technology providers simpler and easier to understand. The ADTE does just that.”
With infrastructure and guiding principles firmly in place, the next logical question for farmers is how to safely and effectively store their data. There are currently a variety of options in the marketplace, but the data can be difficult to retrieve, incompatible and generally hard to work with in other systems.
The Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC) is working on a solution that puts farmers in the driver’s seat. Its mission, currently well underway, is to develop a comprehensive data “bank” for famers. Over time, the data farmers store can be scrubbed, synced and transmitted in an efficient and uniform way to third parties. ADC will provide farmers with the ability to “direct deposit” their data (aka currency), then manage it through something like an online banking system. When a farmer wishes to “transfer” funds, ADC will be able to transmit the data on the farmer’s behalf to whomever the farmer wishes —researchers, crop insurance agents, government officials, farm managers, input providers or any trusted advisor, to name just a few.
The concept of agricultural data can admittedly be a little overwhelming and intimidating. Think of these three initiatives—AgGateway, the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator and the Agricultural Data Coalition—as three legs of a stool that will support farmers in this new era of data-driven agriculture. Each is essential to simplifying data management, ensuring trust and transparency and enabling innovation along the value chain by removing inefficiencies.
Working both independently and in concert with one another, these programs offer farmers the right combination to unlock ag data’s full potential.