Data firms must improve transparency

A public breakup between the Climate Corp. and Tillable is a cautionary tale for companies that manage agricultural data for farmers.

The Climate Corp.’s FieldView platform manages planting, spraying and harvest production data, while Tillable is an online land-leasing marketplace that connects farmers to landlords.

Last October, the two companies announced a partnership that would allow FieldView customers to share their production information with Tillable’s digital platform.

The service was to be opt-in, so FieldView users would have to choose to share information with Tillable, just as they can with other FieldView platform partners.

Then in February 2020, Tillable sent letters to farmland owners with cash offers to rent their land.

Many farmers both rent and own farmland and some saw this campaign as a threat to the acres they already rent. They questioned how Tillable came to the cash amounts in the letters, which in some cases were close to hitting the market value.

Some farmers became convinced Tillable’s offer letters were related to the data-sharing arrangement with FieldView, and they took to social media to communicate their displeasure.

Climate FieldView chief executive officer Mike Stern said no data was exchanged, and that farmers would have had to opt in to share their data once the platforms became connected.

Tillable CEO Corbett Kull said the company used publicly available information, such as tax information and average county yields to come up with the dollar amounts in the land-lease offers.

But it didn’t matter if information was ever exchanged because the idea of suspicious activity took root on social media.

Climate Corp. cancelled the platform integration agreement with Tillable.

There are plenty of companies and people who would love to get their hands on farmers’ production information, so companies that manage this information must clearly demonstrate they will not share it without consent.

But FieldView already does this, so companies may need to go further than promising discretion.

Companies that handle farmers production data may also need to look into third party verification of their customer contracts, such as Ag Data Transparent.

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