PRECISION agriculture through the use of data science has the potential to fundamentally improve the productivity and sustainability of global agriculture.
With customized information, farmers are able to make more informed decisions that help them maximize their yield potential and use the planet's finite resources more efficiently. However, uncertainty regarding producer privacy has left the industry leery.
At the 2014 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual meeting, attendees provided clear direction and approved strong policy resolutions on the so-called "big-data" issue as it relates to data privacy, ownership and use in agricultural production.
"Proprietary data collected from individual farms is valuable and should remain the property of the farmer," Bob Stallman, president of AFBF, said. "As innovation and technology using these data expand to provide farmers new management tools, protecting the privacy of these data is paramount."
To address farmers' concerns, The Climate Corp. recently announced a number of groundbreaking principles and commitments related to data use and privacy.
"The application of data science in agriculture is relatively new, and with the development of new technologies comes some level of uncertainty about its potential implications," said David Friedberg, chief executive officer of Climate Corp. "In our experience, farmers are more likely to embrace new technologies that will drive the evolution of agricultural production when they have certainty about the use, privacy and control of the data they personally generate on their own farms.
"We want to immediately and transparently address some farmers' concerns about data use and privacy while advancing the conversation about industry standards that support farmers' needs," Friedberg added. "Farmers come first, and we need to do what we can to make sure the industry is adopting practices and standards that do what's best for the farmer."
Two years ago, Monsanto established its Integrated Farming Systems platform that aimed to combine data science with precision agriculture technologies to help farmers derive new value. Recently, the research and product development teams that make up the platform, along with the Precision Planting group, transitioned to Climate Corp., led by Friedberg.
"Throughout the process of building our platform, we've reached out to our farmer customers and industry stakeholders for their input, and they've told us that farmers need to know how their data will be used and protected in order for them to embrace data science in agriculture," Friedberg said.
"The Climate Corp. believes that farmers must have control over the data they provide to us, and they must be able to move it easily across different technology platforms," Friedberg explained. "It's our responsibility to remove the roadblocks to the growth and adoption of these important technologies. We realize that combining farmers' data with unique modeling capabilities requires trust."
To reinforce its commitment to farmers, the company has outlined to several guiding principles that will drive its development of data-related products and services, including:
* Farmers own the data they create. The company will make it easy for farmers to control who is able to access the data they provide and for what purpose and enable farmers to easily remove their data from the company's systems. It will only use farmers' data to deliver and improve the services to which they are subscribing. It will ensure that safeguards are in place to protect farmer information from outside parties and will not sell customer-provided data to third parties.
* Because farmers need to be able to easily create, store and access their data, Climate Corp. will provide basic data services free of charge.
* Farmers need to easily access and share their information across technology platforms.
The company said it will enable farmers to share their data across other platforms at no cost. This approach requires industry standards for consistency in the collection of data and that allow farmers to easily transfer data among platforms.
Additionally, Climate Corp. is forming an Open Agriculture Data Alliance of providers and farmers to act as an independent body that will ensure that different platforms share common interoperability, common data formats and security and privacy standards.
Enabling different systems to work together will give farmers more control and can ultimately help farmers optimize yield, improve conservation practices and improve the profitability of their operations, the company explained.