A cooperative of growers and an agricultural data nonprofit have agreed to combine their technology platforms and create a vital resource for data-driven agriculture — a neutral, secure and private data storage repository controlled by growers. The combined platforms will be known as AgXchange and will be an independent data repository commercially available through the Growers Ag Data Cooperative (GADC) where producers can control, store, view and share their farm data assets.
The effort resulted from dialogues between Grower Information Services Cooperative (GiSC), a grower-formed data warehouse and sharing cooperative, and Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC), a nonprofit corporation formed by 14 founding members, including universities, industry organizations, agricultural groups and companies. The two organizations have been in communication since the ADC announced its mission to help farmers better control and manage their electronic data and facilitate noncommercial research. Realizing their common vision and missions based on grower-controlled data, GiSC and ADC have agreed to combine their efforts and create more synergy between the two organizations and their members. GiSC will rebrand and become Growers Agricultural Data Cooperative, and the two organizations will work closely to provide producers, universities and others a platform to securely store, control and, if they choose, share their data.
“After meeting with each other, we realized we were working toward the same end goal, though from slightly different approaches. It was quickly clear that combining efforts would provide substantial benefits and move us all toward the objective of a grower-controlled, independent data storage repository,” said ADC President Ben Craker.
AgXchange is a platform developed through the collaboration of GiSC and ADC. GiSC has a working data storage and visualization platform. ADC developed a data storage and sharing pilot repository, featuring data connections to several precision farming data platforms. The two entities will integrate their complementary platforms to improve functionality and value, improve grower control over their data and allow growers to share their data with universities and other researchers, in addition to other service providers, if the growers choose to do so.
“The central idea was to use the capabilities and resources of the diverse members of the ADC to establish a centralized, dynamic, but completely neutral, resource,” Craker said. “Any time a grower who has an AgXchange account wants to share their data with a service provider, researcher or other business interest, they will be able to grant permission if they so choose.”
“GiSC, now recognized as GADC, will fill a need many growers may not have recognized yet — neutral and secure data storage,” said Billy Tiller, the founder of GiSC. He explained that many growers do not currently maximize the opportunities to use their data, while others may use third-party services to do it for them but often unknowingly grant perpetual rights to use their information to the service providers.
“Growers not only need to be able to maximize the use of their data through capturing and sharing data, but they also need to be able to control the use of that data generated on their operations. When a grower gains complete control of his/her data, the grower will then be able to maintain complete control of his/her operation from the present to the future,” said Jason Ward, CEO of GiSC.
Farm Bureau View
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) was a key supporter of the development of an independent, farmer-directed data cooperative. A 2014 AFBF survey showed that 64% of respondents were skeptical or fearful about the misuse of their proprietary data by third parties. In the survey, Farmers indicated that they wanted greater transparency as well as more ways to deal with issues such as personal control of their own data; data security; data portability; data storage and availability; and data privacy.
The merger of efforts by the Ag Data Coalition and the Grower Information Services Cooperative will provide the opportunity for the power of big data in agriculture to be firmly in the hands of America farmers, said Zippy Duvall, president of AFBF. “These kinds of revolutionary changes in agriculture are rare and this merger provides farmers the kind of certainty and security they have been seeking when it comes to agronomic data management,” says Duvall. “Almost four years ago, our members requested we become far more involved in the precision ag/big data issue. They were adamant about the benefits of the use of precision agriculture and data on their farms and ranches. Virtually all of them highlighted the benefits of more and better information for better business decisions, increasing crop yields, increasing operational efficiency and lowering input costs.”
AFBF is one of a number of supporting organizations of ADC, which officially launched last year after extensive planning and coordination. Other members include AGCO, Agri-AFC, Auburn University, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, Ice Miller LLP, Iowa AgState, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, Mississippi State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Raven Industries and Topcon Positioning Group.
Grower Information Services Cooperative, GiSC, is the only grower-owned data cooperative in the United States. GiSC is made up of growers across all geographies, commodities and demographics. The coop, and the data that resides within the organization, is governed by a board of directors composed of the growers’ peers. GiSC works to protect growers’ data rights as well as provide a secure place to warehouse and share growers’ data.