Thanks to precision agriculture and advancements in equipment and computing technology, America's farmers are building a treasure trove of production information that will help fuel future innovation. A new organization announced March 3, the Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC), plans to help farmers better control, manage and maximize the value of their data.
ADC is the result of years of planning and coordination by AGCO, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Auburn University, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, The Ohio State University, Mississippi State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Raven Industries and Topcon Positioning Group.
Tractors, tilling equipment, planters, sprayers, harvesters and agricultural drones are increasingly connected to the internet. Even so, farmers don't always have the ability to precisely control where those data go or to transfer the data from one data processor to another.
ADC's goal is to build a data repository where farmers can securely store and oversee the information collected by their tractors, harvesters, aerial drones and other devices. Over time, that data can then be scrubbed, synced and transmitted in an efficient and uniform way to third parties — whether researchers, crop insurance agents, government officials, farm managers, input providers or any trusted adviser the farmer chooses.
“The key is that farmers are in complete control, and they decide who is allowed access to their data,” explained ADC executive director Matt Bechdol. “That's what sets ADC apart. This is not about profit for others; it's about streamlining data management, establishing clear lines of control and helping growers utilize their data in ways that ultimately benefit them.”
Bechdol said in order to understand ADC's platform, it's helpful to think of it like a bank. “Farmers deposit their asset into a secure location,” he explained. “They manage that asset through the equivalent of an online banking system, and then, just like an ATM or an online transaction, ADC is able to transmit the data on the farmer's behalf wherever the farmer wishes.”
Bechdol added, “Today, farmers have to store their own data, have to transmit it themselves and have to deposit assets in a number of separate banks just to do business.”
Few farmers are currently maximizing their data because the marketplace lacks a viable central repository like the one ADC is developing. Bechdol believes that ADC's collaborative approach and ability to bring a critical mass to the data bank is what will enable it to succeed and demonstrate value.
He explained that ADC is working with farm leaders and farmer-owned cooperatives to ensure that the system is organized, structured and positioned to operate in ways that will be most beneficial to growers and encourage farmer use.
“Farmers must retain ownership and control of the private agricultural data that originates from the work they do in their fields,” AFBF president Zippy Duvall said. “Harnessing that proprietary information for field-level efficiency and effectiveness is the key that will unlock more profitability and the greater adoption of precision agriculture. That's good for business and the environment, too.”
Bechdol added that “even if some people aren't ready or sure how to use their data, it still makes sense for them to take time to deposit their information into this universal bank. That way, they will be prepared when they need the data or choose to put it to work.”
Farmers interested in learning more about data collection and organizations interested in joining ADC's efforts may visit http://AgDataCoalition.org.