WASHINGTON, March 2, 2016 – U.S. farmers will soon have a new resource to help them manage the increasing amount of data they are able to collect from farming operations and to maximize the value of that information.

The newly formed Agricultural Data Coalition plans to establish a data repository where farmers can securely store and oversee the information collected by modern tractors, harvesters, drones and other devices. Matt Bechdol, ADC’s executive director, says the group has put out a proposal for a company to build the repository and a prototype could be up and running within months.

“Think of it like a bank,” Bechdol told Agri-Pulse Wednesday in a telephone interview. “Farmers deposit their asset into a secure location. 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 seamlessly transmit the data on the farmer’s behalf wherever the farmer wishes.”

Mary Kay Thatcher, the senior director of congressional relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said ADC – and the plans for the repository – were developed after years of meetings among a diverse group of 13 contributors, including AFBF, AGCO, Auburn University, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, Ohio State University, Mississippi State University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Raven Industries and Topcon Positioning Group.

“We are trying to put farmers first and make sure their needs are met in resolving some of the big issues raised” in the new era of Big Data, Thatcher said. They include portability – a farmer’s ability to move his or her data when needed, for example, to a new seed provider – and security.

“Farmers are very concerned about EPA or groups like the Environmental Working Group getting access to their data. We are going to great lengths to make sure that data is protected,” Thatcher said.

“The key is that farmers are in complete control, and they decide who is allowed access to their data,” Bechdol explained in a news release.  “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 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.”

Farmers currently have to store their own data and transmit it themselves to the different advisers or companies that they contract with. As a result, only a few are maximizing their data because the marketplace lacks a repository like the one ADC is developing, Bechdol said.

“We want to ease the burden on farmers and allow them to do what they do best – producing the crops the country relies on,” Thatcher said.

Bechdol explained that ADC is working with farm leaders and farmer-owned cooperatives to ensure the system is organized and positioned to operate in ways that will be most beneficial to growers and encourage farmer use.

“And even if some people aren’t ready or sure how to use their data, it still makes sense for them to take a couple of minutes to deposit their information into this universal bank,” Bechdol said.  “That way, they will be prepared when they need the data or choose to put it to work.”

Bechdol said there will be a fee structure for data storage but that is still being developed. He said ADC is looking at ways to minimize the cost to farmers.

Feature photo courtesy of Eldon C. Stutsman, Inc. 


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