New Data Coalition Promises More Control For Farmers

When it comes to helping farmers take full advantage of the value of field data, data privacy and ownership issues have been an elephant in the room. Many farmers have held back on fully engaging with manufacturer and service provider solutions because of concerns about how data would be used and shared.

Hearing the concerns of farmers, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) moved rapidly to develop a set of privacy and security principles for farm data as a first step toward increasing data transparency and to engage the industry about the issues of data privacy.

This week, AFBF and a coalition of key agriculture stakeholders are announcing a bold new step forward, the Agriculture Data Coalition (ADC). More than two years in the making, ADC is designed to be a farmer-driven data storage platform that allows farmers to better control, manage and maximize the value of their data.

“The key is that farmers are in complete control, and they decide who is allowed access to their data,” explained ADC Executive Director Matt Bechdol. “That’s what sets ADC apart. This is not about profit for others, it’s about streamlining data management, establishing clear lines of control, and helping growers utilize their data in ways that ultimately benefit them.”

Its goal is to build a data repository where farmers can securely store and oversee the information collected by their tractors, harvesters, aerial drones and other devices. Over time, that data can then be scrubbed, synced and transmitted in an efficient and uniform way to third parties — whether they be researchers, crop insurance agents, government officials, farm managers, input providers or any trusted advisor the farmer chooses.

Partners in the development of the ADC concept include the following companies and organizations:

More partners are expected to sign on in the near future, and any companies interested in joining the Coalition are also welcome to reach out, says Bechdol.

Bechdol likens ADC’s approach to the data platform to a bank. “Farmers deposit their asset into a secure location,” he says, “and they manage that asset through the equivalent of an online banking system.”

ADC will be able to transmit the data on the farmer’s behalf wherever the farmer wishes, he adds. “Today, farmers have to store their own data, have to transmit it themselves and have to deposit assets in a number of separate banks just to do business.”

ADC is working with farm leaders and farmer-owned cooperatives to ensure the system is organized, structured and positioned to operate in ways that will be most beneficial to growers and encourage farmer use, says Bechdol.

“And even if some people aren’t ready or sure how to use their data, it still makes sense for them to take time to deposit their information into this universal bank. That way, they will be prepared when they need the data or choose to put it to work.”

The request for proposal process is nearly complete that will name a builder of the software platform, and a prototype release is anticipated within three months.

“We want to show tangible progress, and begin to work with growers to envision what this data platform can be,” says Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations at AFBF who has been a key point person for data privacy and ownership issues at the Bureau, and represents the Bureau in ADC.

“Simplicity is the key,” she adds. “It will not be different for growers than signing up for any internet-based site, and growers will interact with it in a number of different ways. But, the farmer will be in full control. They decide who they trust, and who they want to have access.”

A website will be launched on March 3 for farmers and interested partner organizations who want to learn more about ADC’s efforts. The URL is www.AgDataCoalition.org.

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