Trust is paramount in technology age

Farmers are urged to ask tough questions before trusting their information to a company. See whether its privacy statement is clear and easy to find and ask what information is being collected, who will own it and how it will be used. | File photo

Farmers have been collecting and generating data for centuries. In our increasingly digitized world, data has also become synonymous with today’s farm — whether that information is used to choose a hybrid to increase return on investment, use crop protection products more efficiently, or strategically place more input in areas of high performance.

In fact, some of the greatest advancements in agriculture are coming from data analysis. Farmers across the country are paying close attention to what is happening with their data, and with good reason.

Data is becoming increasingly valuable, yet protecting that sensitive information requires cutting edge technological safeguards supported by progressive policies that allow technology providers to be nimble and forward looking.

In our business, data is our world. As a digital agriculture platform provider for more than 60 million farming acres, we operate at the convergence of technology and trust. In broad terms, we believe that information privacy is a fundamental right. We are guided by global best practices in the rapidly evolving information economy.

We are proud to be a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, the world’s largest information privacy organization.

At the end of the day, farming is a business. But unlike years past, it may take more than blood, sweat and tears to thrive. Farmers who embrace the brave new world of precision agriculture and put their data to work for them are realizing that data is their competitive advantage.

Technology options available to farmers abound, with more and more companies promoting their ability to collect, share and analyze field information. From soil health to inputs like herbicides and fertilizers, growers can boost their yields and ultimately increase profit by understanding what is happening on every acre of their farm. By optimizing those inputs, farming operations can minimize their environmental impact, while growing more food.

But do farmers really know how their data is being used?

Farmers care about how their data is used. After all, the information economy is changing in step with advancing technology. As farmers adopt new technologies, they need to know what is happening with every bit and byte of information relating to their operation. They need to be aware if it is being sold, shared or used at the individual farm level. They need partners who will help them extract, track and analyze their data in ways that help them, and do not put their operation at risk.

These technology partners should obtain explicit permission to share their customers’ field data with agronomic advisers and other trusted partners.

Data privacy policies can be complicated, regardless of what industry you’re looking at. That’s why our policy is designed through a lens of clarity; we want farmers to understand exactly how their information is protected, and how it can and cannot be used. Under our policy, customers are empowered to consent, or withhold consent.

Control, sharing and safeguards — these key facets should underpin a technology provider’s commitment to each and every one of their customers.

A piece of advice for everyone in the information age: ask some tough questions before trusting your information to any company. Is their privacy statement easy to find? Is it clearly laid out? Exactly what information is being collected? How will the information be used? Who has access?

At the end of the day, it’s about trust. We want farmers to know they are in the driver’s seat — both of their combine and hard-earned data.

Because without trust, there can be no real partnership.

Denise Hockaday is climate business lead for Canada at The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Bayer.

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