Who owns your data?

Editor’s note: This is the final part of a two-part column on data use in agriculture.

Information privacy and ownership are popping up in conversations as big data develops in agriculture.

The issue is further complicated because the collected data is transferred over the internet and aggregated by different companies for a variety of purposes.

The information could be used in a way that might not be intended by the grower if it fell into certain hands, such as big business or big government. Farmers should ensure that they own all the data that they produce on the farm and can direct how it is to be used.

Producers might tend to trust their data to independent companies, who they can contract to not use in ways that are contrary to their interests.

Equipment compatibility is the other issue.

Some equipment manufacturers have created programs that work efficiently, but they don’t read or use data from another manufacturer’s equipment. This incompatibility requires producers to commit to one manufacturer’s equipment throughout his operation.

Producers need to easily share data between machines and operating platforms and collect the entire data package from a farm. However, this either requires standardized data formats and compatibility between different brands or a system that uses data from all brands.

And what are the benefits of big data?

  • proper allocation of resources that result in increased yield and/or quality
  • higher productivity of land resources because of better agronomics and inputs
  • adoption of modern technologies and the measurement of the results of the technology

However, perhaps the biggest benefit is that farmers will be able to access a growing part of the market that requires products be produced sustainably and that they be able to prove it. With this comes the peace of mind that crops are being grown sustainably.

Growers need to understand that succeeding in precision agriculture requires dedication and discipline as they interpret data and put it into context.

Few growers have a plan or goal for their data, which results in it not being used in a meaningful way.

Producers should find a provider they are comfortable working with when developing a plan to maximize their data.

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