Thursday, March 13, 2014

Farm data issue includes argument about whether compatibility or privacy is more important

Monsanto, the world's biggest seed producer and a leading chemical manufacturer has been spending billions to buy up companies that gather data on farmers. Other companies have followed suit. The agricultural industry has also become technologically savvy, with ranchers and farmers using cell phones and computers for trade, to control pest populations, or to keep up to date with important information related to their business operations. 

But these advances pose problems of compatibility and data security, and a new organization, the Open Ag Data Alliance, hopes to solve them with a plan to develop technical standards for formatting and sharing data collected, reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. Greg Smirin, chief operating officer for Climate Corp., one of the allies, told Agri-Pulse, “We keep hearing from farmers that they are overwhelmed with incompatible data. They need the hardware and software to talk to one another. (OADA's) goal is to create data interoperability between systems. The mission is to create the technical underpinnings and mechanisms for safe date exchange."

OADA, which also consists of CNH Industrial, AgReliant Genetics, Growmark, Purdue University’s Open Ag Technology Group, Valley Irrigation and Wilbur, "wants any existing agriculture organizations, farmers, software engineers, academics, and private companies to join," Agri-Pulse writes.

But some still see privacy problems. "Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, questioned how OADA will establish mechanisms for data transfer before the industry as a whole answers the 'overarching questions' on data privacy issues." She told Agri-Pulse, “There has to be a consensus of industry and farmers on the principles that guide them first regarding data privacy and ownership." Agri-Pulse is subscription only, but a free trial is available by clicking here.

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