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What Does It Mean To Be ‘Transparent’ With Ag Data? 

While participating in a recent podcast hosted by United Soybean Board’s Tech Toolshed (Getting to know Ag Data Transparent), the host asked this question: What does data transparency mean? I asked a few industry leaders about what “data transparency” means to them. Here are those responses:


Billy Tiller, CEO of Grower Information Services Cooperative (GiSC) and Texas farmer:
“Transparency means that the farmer understands what is happening to their data. The farmer is a businessman and should be able to make the decision about how data is shared without it being made for him. Transparency means that, as a farmer, I have the opportunity to get the most out of my data. I have the opportunity to pick the companies I want to share my data with. I have no fear that my data will be used for a purpose other than what I want. That’s what transparency means.”

Jason Tatge, Founder of Farmobile:
“Data transparency means utilizing data with integrity so that individuals know what data is being collected, who has access to it, and how they’re able to interact with it. We live in an age where trust is at an all-time low — when data breaches and opaque partnerships are the norm, and individuals are looking for the most trustworthy brokers and stewards of their data. How do you gain that trust? You do it by providing a clear, 360-degree view into how the data is being used, ensuring that data creators have anytime access to it, as well as direct control over how and when it is shared.”

Amanda Neely, WinField United’s Answer Tech:
“The concept of ag data transparency is simple: Farmers own their data, and they should know exactly how it is being treated by their data provider. Is it being shared? Is it being sold?”


The Ag Data Transparent (ADT) organization has a mission to increase data transparency. That is why when the organization was founded the focus was on transparency — not right or wrong. Transparent companies should be able to answer (at least) 10 questions about how they collect, store, share, use, and delete farmers’ data. For the ADT, transparency means being honest with farmers so that they can make informed data decisions.

Finally, here are my thoughts on what “data transparency” means, taking from all of these ideas. There are three key elements to any transparent data agreement. It must be (1) clear; (2) simple; and (3) honest. “Clear” means that the agreement is written to be understood by the farmers. “Simple” means that agreement is only as long as is necessary and omits typical legal jargon. Long, complex agreements can be written in plain English, but that alone does not make them transparent. And finally, “honest” means that the important information is not buried in fine print. Many contracts are legally accurate, but they hide the key provisions on page 3. The result is that the farmer does not really understand what they are signing. That is not transparency.

How do you define data transparency? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Avatar for Lon Crosby Lon Crosby says:

Is the farmer’s data really worth anything other than as a local marketing aid? It comes with no QA/QC and with todays hyperspectral remote imaging it seems to be feasible to independently generate better information than the farmer can likely provide.

Avatar for Tom Tom says:

One of the key issues with “precision” ag is that we farmers have very little knowledge of the key driver of measurable results/value ….. genetics. Top shelf livestock producers will know the expected performance difference from genetics they deploy. We get glossy literature with sometimes very subjective scores. The information used to base our genetics choices is VERY asymmetrical in that the source has a lot more information on their side than the farmer does cutting the check.

Thus, how precise can we be in decision making when a primary driver is quite imprecise?

Sharing our farmer data helps ground truth the imagery Lon talks about further shifting the asymmetry of the value equation away from the farmer…. unless the farmer pays for the decoder ring which still may only be as good as the Cracker Jack box it arrived in.