Agreement Lays Out How Ag Companies Can Use Big Data | St. Louis Public Radio

Agreement Lays Out How Ag Companies Can Use Big Data

Nov 20, 2014

Monsanto’s subsidiary Climate Corporation, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and several other agribusiness companies and farm groups have reached an agreement on big data.

A farmer uses precision planting equipment.
Credit Via Monsanto

The group had been meeting for months as more and more farmers begin to use data services to help them get the most of their fields. Climate Corporation, for example, uses figures about previous crop yields, soil information and weather data to help farmers make decisions about when to plant, fertilize and harvest.

The concern for farm groups has centered around what happens to all of the data; whether it would be shared with third parties; and how safe it is from security breaches.

Farm Bureau economist Matthew Erickson said the organization is happy with the agreement.

"First and foremost it addressed farmers’ concerns over data privacy, but it doesn’t lose sight of the benefits of these precision technologies," he said.

The principles outlined in the agreement include:

  • Farmers own their data. Those who rent land should get the owner's consent to use data services.
  • Data can only be collected, accessed and used with explicit consent of farmer.
  • Farmers must be notified if a third party will have access to their data.
  • Service providers should explain if the data will be used and how. There should be an easy way for farmers to contact the providers with inquiries.
  • Farmers should be able to retrieve their data.
  • Farmers should be able to have their data removed and securely discarded.
  • Providers will not use the farm data to illegally speculate in commodity markets.
  • Farm data should be protected again risks such as unauthorized access, and providers should clearly define terms of liability.

Erickson said there also will be a transparency evaluation tool that will help growers compare data service providers and see which are complying with the agreement. He said companies that don’t abide by the principles will be identified.

Climate Corporation’s vice president of marketing, Anthony Osborne, said the agreement is similar to the data use principle the company already follows.

"It starts with the fact that farmers own the data they provide to us, and that we’re going to be very transparent with them about how we use it," Osborne said.

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