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Merger of secure ag data repositories a game changerMerger of secure ag data repositories a game changer

Merger to provide power of big data to be in hands of America's farmers.

Krissa Welshans 1

March 3, 2017

4 Min Read
Merger of secure ag data repositories a game changer

A cooperative of growers and an agricultural data non-profit have agreed to combine their technology platforms and create a vital resource for data-driven agriculture – a neutral, secure and private data storage repository controlled by growers. The combined platforms will be known as AgXchange and will be an independent data repository commercially available through the Growers Ag Data Cooperative (GADC) where producers can control, store, view and share their farm data assets. 

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said the announcement represents a monumental development in precision agriculture.

The merger will provide the opportunity for the power of big data in agriculture to be firmly in the hands of America’s farmers, said AFBF president Zippy Duvall.

“Today is an exciting day,” Duvall said. “These kinds of revolutionary changes in agriculture are rare, and this merger provides farmers the kind of certainty and security they have been seeking when it comes to agronomic data management.”

Principals from each group anticipate the merged database will be ready to store and manage data beginning after this spring’s planting season.

“Almost four years ago, our members requested we become far more involved in the precision ag/big data issue,” Duvall said. “They were adamant about the benefits of the use of precision agriculture and data on their farms and ranches. Virtually all of them highlighted the benefits of more and better information for better business decisions, increasing crop yields, increasing operational efficiency and lowering input costs.”

However, a 2014 AFBF survey showed that 64% of respondents said they were skeptical or fearful about the misuse of their proprietary data by third parties. Farmers said they wanted greater transparency as well as more ways to deal with issues such as personal control of their own data, data security, data portability, data storage and availability and data privacy.

That was when AFBF joined forces with other groups to form the Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC). At the same time, ADC was working to form a secure repository, the Grower Information Services Cooperative (GiSC) launched a similar effort. Both groups viewed a secure data repository for farmers’ agronomic data as the key to mitigating farmers’ concerns over data management, portability and security.

Both groups believed data repositories should function as cooperatives led by farmers and, potentially, service providers. Now, the groups will share more than just beliefs.

The effort resulted from dialogues between GiSC and ADC after ADC announced its mission to help farmers better control and manage their electronic data and facilitate non-commercial research.

Realizing their common vision and missions based on grower controlled data, GiSC and ADC agreed to combine their efforts and create more synergy between the two organizations and their members. GiSC will rebrand and become GADC and the two organizations will work closely to provide producers, universities and others a platform to securely store, control and, if they choose, share their data.

“After meeting with each other, we realized we were working toward the same end goal, though from slightly different approaches. It was quickly clear that combining efforts would provide substantial benefits and move us all toward the objective of a grower-controlled, independent data storage repository” said ADC president Ben Craker.

The two entities will integrate their complementary platforms in to AgXchange to improve functionality and value, improve grower control over their data, and allow growers to share their data with universities and other researchers, in addition to other service providers, if the growers choose to do so.

“The central idea was to use the capabilities and resources of the diverse members of the ADC to establish a centralized, dynamic, but completely neutral resource,” said Craker. “Any time a grower who has an AgXchange account wants to share their data with a service provider, researcher or other business interest, they will be able to grant permission if they so choose.”

GiSC, now recognized as GADC, will fill a need many growers may not have recognized yet — neutral and secure data storage, said Billy Tiller, the founder of GiSC. He explained that many growers do not currently maximize the opportunities to use their data, while others may use third-party services to do it for them, but often unknowingly grant perpetual rights to use their information to the service providers.

“Growers not only need to be able to maximize the use of their data through capturing and sharing data, but they also need to be able to control the use of that data generated on their operations. When a grower gains complete control of his/her data, the grower will then be able to maintain complete control of his/her operation from the present to the future,” said Jason Ward, chief executive officer of GiSC.

Announced just one year ago, ADC is the result of years of planning and coordination by AGCO, Agri-AFC, AFBF, Auburn University, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, Ice Miller LLP, Iowa AgState, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, Mississippi State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Raven Industries and Topcon Positioning Group.

GiSC is the only grower owned data cooperative in the U.S. GiSC is made up of growers across all geographies, commodities and demographics. The co-op, and the data that resides within the organization, is governed by a board of directors composed of the growers’ peers. GiSC works to protect growers’ data rights as well as provide a secure place to warehouse and share growers’ data.

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