Which should come first: data standards or data protection?
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WASHINGTON, March 12 2014 - With concerns about “big data” percolating across the countryside, a group of agribusinesses announced a plan to develop technical standards for formatting and sharing data collected through precision farming.
“We keep hearing from farmers that they are overwhelmed with incompatible data,” said Climate Corporation COO Greg Smirin, who announced the launch of the Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA) Tuesday. “They need the hardware and software to talk to one another. [OADA's] goal is to create data interoperability between systems.”
Monsanto acquired the weather data company for approximately $930 million last year. Climate Corporation's products include crop insurance, weather insurance, and software tools Climate Basic and Climate Pro.
Other groups in the OADA: CNH Industrial, as well as AgReliant Genetics, GROWMARK, Purdue University's Open Ag Technology Group, Valley Irrigation, Wilbur-Ellis Company and Land O'Lakes's WinField.
“The mission is to create the technical underpinnings and mechanisms for safe date exchange,” said Smirin. He said a number of stakeholder groups will have different ideas for privacy and security practices. “It's key that the standard approach can support a range of different approaches and business models,” he said. “We need the underlying technology enabled so all of that can take place.”
The alliance wants any existing agriculture organizations, farmers, software engineers, academics, and private companies to join. But some aren't so sure how the standards will work without addressing some of the other “big picture” issues.
Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), questioned how OADA will establish mechanisms for data transfer before the industry as a whole answers the “overarching questions” on data privacy issues.
“There has to be a consensus of industry and farmers on the principles that guide them first regarding data privacy and ownership,” she said.
David Friedberg, Climate Corporation CEO, said OADA wants to provide the technology capabilities necessary to support security and privacy rules that farmers need to make sure data is protected by all software and organizations the farmer selects.
He said the alliance will follow the Climate Corporation's guiding principle that "each farmer owns data generated or entered by the farmer, their employees or by machines performing activities on their farm.”
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