A new approach to farmer data

One aspect of American agriculture that has been demonized over the past year is the collection of data. Although the process of accumulating stats and figures on the farm is a fairly new concept, it grabbed many no-so-accepting headlines when the questions arose about not only what the data may be used for and who can use the data, but also who actually owns the data.

One company that is taking an industry-changing approach is Climate Corporation. The company, recently acquired by Monsanto, uses measurements through data collection, builds modules and products from that data, and then gives recommendations to farmers to create better solutions for an operation.

“The most important principle for us is that the data a farmer provides to us is the farmer’s data,” said Anthony Osborne, Climate Corporations Vice President of Marketing. “That principle really guides what we are able to do, or not do, with a farmer’s data.”

That was a decision made by Climate Corporation earlier this year and the goal is to put the farmer at ease when it comes to a tensely debated topic in agriculture. That begins with a very transparent data privacy policy, which clearly states that Climate Corporation will use the farmer’s data to administer the products the farmer purchases from Climate Corporation and deliver customized data science to the farmer. Outside of that, the farmer must expressly give Climate Corporation permission to do anything else with that data in the future.

“I think people are shocked that we are taking such a farmer-friendly approach to data ownership,” Osborne said. “Especially since other companies in our industry haven’t gone in that direction yet, but it is an evolving process and I think many of the players are in the process of development of new data privacy policies.”

Many producers are realizing the value of data as years of garnering their farm insights are now being used to make their operation more productive, less wasteful and better all around. Farmers also realize that data from one portion of their business can be used even more by combining it with other aspects of the farm. That is something that Climate Corporation’s data policies can allow their customers to do.

“We think the most value created for the grower is the ability to have control of all of their farm’s information, regardless of the type of equipment or seed that they might use,” Osborne said. “The farmer is best served by being able to take all of their data to multiple service providers. They certainly shouldn’t be locked in to one provider simply because that is where their data sits.”

Being a relatively new tool for farmers to use, data collection practices will naturally come into question. It’s Climate Corporation’s belief that, as the years go by and farmers realize the many positive uses that come with data collection, the negative stigmas will disappear.

“It’s easy to think about the scary things that could happen with data when the full benefits aren’t yet realized,” Osborne said. “The value to the farmer will be certain over time as we glean insights from their data and provide back to them to help them make better decisions.  Just possessing their data is not where value is created.”

Read more about Climate Corporation’s data privacy policy here.

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