Regaining Control Of Field Data

When it comes to creating and building value with farmer-customers, service providers today have new allies to support their efforts. Growers Ag Data Cooperative (formerly known as GiSC) and the Ag Data Coalition (ADC), two separate entities in form and function, share a great many things in common — in particular, their shared vision of how farmers should be able to manage, control, and profit from their field data.

This was the basis for the recent announcement that these entities intend to work together toward realizing this vision for producers.

Producers should be able to have, hold, and control how their data sets are shared. Those same producers should own and control the means by which this functionality is made available to them as patrons of a true producer-owned cooperative.

Truly A New Vision

While other in the ag industry proclaim these same beliefs, none exist solely to serve this purpose in this manner. It seems either companies are trying to collect farmer data so they can sell these same producers something else, or they are out to make a quick buck off this “big data” play in ag using the proven “freemium” marketing model. Give something away to someone for “free” and in return get something back from the “user” that can be turned in to income by interacting with a third party.

This freemium model is commonplace today (when’s the last time you paid for an “app”?) and has made companies like Facebook a household name worth hundreds of billions of dollars. It’s no wonder that venture capital money is finding its was into “big data” ag companies wanting to be the next Amazon.

The problem, though, is that a farmer’s data set is not something trivial. It is intellectual property that defines how a farmer derives a living and how they operate their business. Too many times producers are being asked to give up their data in the normal couse of doing business with someone — at other times, producers may not even be aware others are accessing information about their operations.

We have all be trained to just “hit the accept button” and we never take time to challenge or read what we agreed to when we do this. In the ag data industry, many times it is difficult to tell what happens to data when a farmer shares it with someone.

The emergence of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator (ADTE) was designed to address this very issue: the lack of transparency in matters pertaining to data privacy. Still, only a handful of technology providers have actually gone through the ADTE process. IT is no wonder then that many producers today still are reluctant to dive head-first into data collection technologies — to adopt the latest and greatest systems that have real potential to help them achieve new levels of profitability.

As more producers become comfortable with and proficient at sharing their data as they see fit — using the functionality of GADC and ADC — those committed to forwarding the learning process from these data sets at ADC can begin to tell a new, compelling story.

Myriad Benefits

There are many problems to be solved today in our industry. From helping to document water quality studies to promoting sustainability efforts, our ag research community needs access to real ag data — access made available by support of those basic rights of growers to have, hold, control, and share their data.

That’s how this alignment of GADC and ADC is a real benefit to service providers. Service providers should represent to their farmer-customers how they use GADC and ADC as their means of storing data shared with them.

A relationship based on the premise, “we have your data so we will make it hard for you to leave us” is an untenable approach to data, and frankly, farmers are tired of it. Service providers should want their farmer relationships to be based on how well they create value for customers. When service providers support and promote this new alignment of GADC and ADC, they are in fact helping themselves by supporting the idea of a true farmer-owned data cooperative.

In the end, a data cooperative is dedicated only to things pertaining to producer data, and it will encourage more producers to adopt these systems and to seek out relationships with service providers who have the go-to-market attitude of creating real value.

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