Opinion: Keeping farmers in the driver's seat with their farm data

By Guest Author

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By Paul E. Schickler

American agriculture is undergoing a technological revolution with the integration of decision agriculture and its data-driven tools. Many agricultural businesses and start-up companies have released their own solutions designed to help farmers drive on-farm efficiency and productivity by turning data into usable farm management information. Increasingly, these data-driven services are being considered integral to the world's farmers being able to remain competitive and to sustainably meet the food demands of a growing population.

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As with any new technology - and decision agriculture is no exception - controversy exists.  There are questions over the use of data, including data privacy, ownership and determination of value. Consortiums of industry and grower groups are developing data standards and principles to ensure farmers are informed about the risks and benefits of sharing data as they sign up for new value-added services.

DuPont Pioneer supports a set of Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data developed through conversations led by the American Farm Bureau Federation and other commodity and industry groups.  Pioneer also participates in AgGateway, another industry-led effort to develop data standards. Developing privacy, security and data guidelines are necessary steps to spur this technological revolution, yet they take us only part of the way. To enable real-time, data-driven solutions for growers, our industry also must develop open data exchange architecture that allows a grower to share data, on their terms and in a secure manner, with whatever technology providers they choose.

Open data exchange architecture would allow, with the permission of the data owner, hardware, software and storage systems to talk to one another without disrupting the user experience. For example, think about how we send and receive e-mail today. Regardless of the differences in the underlying technology, computer or mobile device used, we can send an e-mail to anyone. We also can stream videos and music through a variety of devices. This level of ease for using and sharing agricultural data is the goal the industry should strive for.

Within the decision agriculture space, open data exchange architecture would allow farmers more flexibility and choice, as they could easily move their data from one provider to another.  This would keep farmers in the driver's seat and help encourage competition and innovation to their benefit.  

As growers begin to integrate new equipment, analytics and data storage tools into their operations, as an industry we need to make sure there are protocols and standards that support what farmers need. Growers must have the ability to move data within cloud systems, service offerings and farm equipment to ensure they get the maximum value out of services.

This conversation needs to begin today. We are just on the cusp of wide-scale adoption of data-fueled tools and services in the United States and there's still time to establish a harmonized infrastructure critical to keeping growers in charge. With more mouths to feed using less land and fewer resources, the use of on-farm data has the potential to be a game-changer for the world's farmers. Let's work together to make sure it is.

Paul E. Schickler is president of DuPont Pioneer, a global seed business with operations in more than 90 countries.

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