How much is farm data worth? That’s one of the questions that farmers must work out as agri-business heavyweights, such as Monsanto and John Deere, get into the buying and selling of the data. Illinois Farm Bureau outgoing President Phillip Nelson articulates other concerns. “Whose data is it, who can control it, who can aggregate it, where does it go after I agree to that and it goes into the cloud and people start using that, whether it’s a machinery manufacturer, a seed company or a chemical company,” he said at the Farm Bureau convention in Chicago.
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The data that these companies are seeking is the specifics that come from individual farmers – their soil type, the farmer’s application of seed and pesticide, when he started and finished planting, how the crop looks and whether there is anything that will hold down yield, such as dry conditions or pests.
Farmers consider that information proprietary, but they’re willing to sell it for consideration, which raises the question of how much the data is worth to the farmer who’s selling it and the company that’s buying it, and what’s a fair price when the data is then packaged and sold.
The buyers of reports based on proprietary information also might gain an edge in trading over those who are relying on USDA data, which raises ethical questions that market regulators will have to confront. Nelson says the American Farm Bureau is meeting with these firms to try to work out fair terms for farmers.