In our fourth blog leading up to Open Data Day we focus on the objective “to encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society”. Our previous blog explored the impact of government data available to researchers, but what about the data you create that is locked away in the technologies you use?   

Today we introduce guest blogger Professor Leanne Wiseman, who discusses the need for sound data management policies and governance frameworks to be adopted by agricultural technology providers that will facilitate the better management and sharing of agricultural data, and also provide for the portability of that data so  farmers are not locked into one particular technology provider. 

Today’s modern farms create a huge amount of agricultural data, including data about the types of crops growing, their yields, livestock numbers and locations, types of fertilisers and pesticides being used, soil types, rainfall and more.   Digital farming machinery, sensors and buildings featuring robotics and digital technologies, artificial intelligence, and IOT on farms are collecting increasing volumes of agricultural data.  This data has been considered by many to provide an opportunity: 

  • for farmers to get closer to the consumer
  • make farms and farmers more efficient
  • inform the development of sustainable practices to manage long-term risk of droughts and pests
  • provide a solution to the world’s impending food security crisis.   

However, with each of these new digital technologies, farmers are entering into complex data licences agreements that regulate the way in which the data collected can be used and shared. Many of these contracts are locked away on websites and are difficult for farmers to access and understand as explored in The Conversation. What this often means is that  farmers have very little knowledge or control over the collection, aggregation and potential distribution of that data.  Collected by governments, agribusinesses, banks, and insurers,  the data collected often ends up beyond the reach of the very farmers who generated the data. To address these concerns, the National Farmers Federation in conjunction with industry, has acted upon the recommendations of the Acceleration Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture research project, and has developed a national Farm Data Code of Practice. This Code is intended to inform the policies of service providers who manage data of behalf of farmers. It also assists farmers in evaluating the data management policies of those providers. This Code is an important first step in addressing the current power imbalance in data management practices of technology and service providers by ensuring farmer’s rights to access their own farm data becomes an important part of the technology partnerships.