How To Approach Data Ownership In AgTech?
The question of data ownership is one of the most important issues in the modern economy. Almost every industry is backed by data, and most companies are starting to convert their operations to a digital medium in some shape or form. You can extract information from data, and information will give you power and direction. With the right data, a company can learn about their current operations, figure out how to optimize things, and come up with predictions for the future. This same data can also be valuable for other companies; therefore, data also has a dollar value to it.
The agricultural industry is no different. With methods like hyperspectral imaging, satellite and drone-based monitoring of crops becoming more prevalent, there will be ever increasing amounts of data that farmers will be looking to protect. There is a growing concern over the question of data ownership in the agricultural industry, but before we go over the solutions, we must first understand the problem.
Lack of Trust
Farmers have a sense of mistrust around the idea of uploading their data into the cloud. A large reason is that there are no laws explicitly protecting that data. This is also true for any industry in the United States, where there is little to no privacy for consumers. In business, data is seen largely as a means for revenue. In fact, Facebook makes almost all of their revenue from selling advertisements, which are made possible solely through user data.
Because user data is so valuable, there is an interest in preserving the status quo — where consumer data can be bought and sold to 3rd parties, who can use and manipulate the data to pursue their own interests. With new revelations each year about ways in which corporations and government entities are abusing consumer privacy, there is little reason for trust. Although the consumer can sometimes feel powerless in a situation like this, there are plenty of solutions available.
The only way to solve this problem is to look at the source. The entity that provides the platform in which the farmer’s data is uploaded to is the last line of defense between your data getting into the wrong hands. If the business that is hosting your data decides to sell it to a 3rd party, there is not much that you can do. That is why it all starts with the companies who are providing the services to the farmers.
When a farmer decides to use an online platform to track, manage, and optimize their operations, they are ultimately handing over their data to this system. One way to ensure that a company is a trusted source is to use resources like AG Data. AG Data is an online resource that is backed by a non-profit organization. It was created with the help of farmers to take into account the concerns over the data ownership problem in AgTech.
The AG Data Transparency Evaluator (ADTE) is a tool that allows farmers to determine if the company that they are working with aligns with the Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data. By creating collectives of businesses that adhere to a set of guidelines that are also agreed upon by the farmers, it will help restore the trust between these groups.
Purchasing Data From Farmers
Allowing the farmer to sell their data to a 3rd party is a more straightforward solution for the problem of data ownership. Some service providers may offer this as a new revenue stream for farmers.
Farmobile, which is also AGData Transparent Certified, is a company that is already paying farmers for their Electronic Field Records (EFRs). There is a lot of money to be made in data, and with the right competition between buyers, this will lead substantial payouts for the farmers.
Policy And Standardization
Additional solutions can be implemented through policy change and standardization. Whether it is on a governmental, business, or consumer level, this would involve policymakers adopting new rules, standards, and even limitations over the way in which commerce can operate within the agricultural industry.
The most effective way to influence the industry as a whole is by having new legislation passed by Congress that dictates the laws around the data ownership issue. The US House of Representatives Agriculture Committee has already made this initiative, but it is a long process that may or may not result in new legislation.
More immediate solutions can be executed such as the standardization and simplification of legal templates and terms that farmers can use to protect their data. Another solution could be to introduce third-party sales limitations or give farmers the ability to choose to opt out of sharing certain types of data. The point is that there are a number of potential solutions for restoring trust between farmers and AgTech companies.
Transparency Is Key
At the end of the day, the only thing that can restore and maintain trust between farmers and AgTech companies is transparency. The improvements in farmer privacy will result in more consistency across the value chain.
The benefits of using cloud-based platforms for crop management and optimization are already proven. They present new business opportunities to farmers and give them tools for making better decisions about their operations. They help them increase their yields, reduce their costs, and become more efficient. The farmers have the power because it is ultimately their decision for which companies they decide to put their money into.