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By Jason Tatge, Farmobile co-founder and CEO
Ever wonder why Farmobile stands behind its policy of data ownership and control? Our technology is independent of and does not use other in-cab systems to stream data. It was engineered specifically for farmers to control, own, use and share their data.
The recent growth of precision agriculture and field-level data is providing farmers, ag retailers and their trusted advisors with many new opportunities to enhance “in field” and “in season” decision making from both agronomic and economic perspectives. Real-time data is required to accomplish the desired outcomes.
Farmobile’s ability to stream data out of the cab each second in real-time is unique and the technology behind it was built to ensure data control. Why?
The data collected by the Farmobile PUCTM device never travels through other in-cab (and antiquated) telematics systems.
Farmobile designed this system to be entirely independent —because we didn’t feel others were addressing the ownership issue appropriately. The real-time data stream creates a massive opportunity for making data interoperable. Standardizing data from a mixed fleet of equipment allows data to be more easily and accurately merged with other external data sets, such as imagery, soil and weather data.
Data generated from traditional machine OEMs does not stream in real-time.
They tend to transmit telematics (not agronomic) data once every 15 minutes, or, for an additional fee, there is often an upgrade to once every 5 minutes. Also, most only allow data from their own equipment brand to be brought into their systems.
From a remote machine location perspective, farmers often see better value in using the “find my iPhone” feature, because it’s updated every minute — for FREE. This solution, however, is not good enough for “in-field” decision making that requires agronomic, telematic and machine data.
FARMOBILE DATA DIFFERENCE
Today’s precision agtech (hardware/software combinations) often fall short of delivering the recognizable ROI required to encourage their continued investment and use. Farmers are becoming wary of the cost increases in OEM technology and electronics lacking clear ROI.
This is why — from the ground up — Farmobile engineered an entirely new streaming data architecture that is independent of the pre-existing, antiquated OEM applications.
- Farmobile’s system was designed to transmit all available data (agronomic, telematic and machine) out of the cab.
- Every second, PUC-collected-data is geo-tagged, packeted, compressed and streamed to the AWS IoT gateway.
- This is why Farmobile can deliver real-time agronomic, telematic and machine data with less than a 3-second latency to the farmer’s permissioned internet-connected devices.
This gives Farmobile subscribers and their trusted advisors a unique competitive advantage. The Farmobile PUC device’s ability to passively collect and record raw, source data within the operator’s normal workflow creates a brand new data set for subscribers and opens a whole new world of opportunity for innovation and interoperability.
AgTech has proven that throwing billions of dollars searching for a data “silver bullet” was destined for failure from the outset. Low quality, incomplete, ag data sets are generally available, but they fail to solve the real problem of poorly collected, disorganized and unstructured data. These systems were designed and architectured to bring “data in” from their own hardware. They were NEVER geared for interoperability or getting “data out” of their systems. This has resulted in proprietary formats and friction when subscribers want to get their own data into other systems.
Unlike others, Farmobile subscribers can use analytics generated from high-quality data sets, merge it with external data sources, share it with boots-on-the-ground agronomy and — with the help of trusted advisors — use it to drive innovation, accelerate learning and increase product performance and profitability.
One of the first improvements Farmobile subscribers experience is the ability to optimize real-time fleet management and logistics activities. The data is 100 percent in their control.
Machine optimization becomes much more important in times of low commodity prices and rising input and equipment costs. Farmobile subscribers receive daily machine reports (Image A) that provide visibility into ways to save time and improve operational efficiency.
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT DATA
With all of these opportunities for digital innovation comes a HUGE responsibility to safeguard and protect data through clearly-established business agreements, relationships and permissioning structures.
This becomes a bigger issue as subscribers and their trusted advisors learn how to collect and organize “complete data sets” that document the “crop recipe” for each field. This kind of data holds the ability to improve yields, reduce input costs and pave the way for accelerated learning from data science through whole field trials that lead to innovative programs, like outcome based pricing. So, when farmers have complete, organized data, they tend to care a lot more about who has access to it.
This brings me to the recent conflicts over farm data privacy and the vigorous farmer debate on Twitter and other social channels. Regardless of what side of the discussion you support, it’s clear that farmers understand the value of the data they collect. And, they are asking the right questions:
- Who owns the data?
- What are my rights?
- Who gets to see my data?
- Where does my data flow?
- How do I make certain my data is protected?
As a pure data company, Farmobile has fielded a flood of inbound calls from farmers and trusted advisors seeking to talk about the issue and our unique approach to data.
DATA PRIVACY HAS COME OF AGE
First, let me say, it was just a matter of time before this spark caused a fire.
I’ve written many times before on the issues surrounding data ownership. Back in 2017, I even joined Todd Janzen, president of Janzen Agricultural Law, and several other colleagues to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security on this and other challenges facing rural data. Data ownership was the first thing on the docket. Todd recently spoke again on the issue in his blog, focusing on the recent public breakup of a collaboration announced (Feb. 18, 2020) between two farm data companies — the dispute arose over whether two farm data companies had shared farmer data without permission.
For some time now, as business owners, farmers have faced a very real data risk because: 1) companies gain access, control and sometimes ownership over the farmer’s private data just from using their software; and 2) farmers can get locked into their data policies. The collection of this data often happens without the farmer’s knowledge due to long, complex agreements written with the drafter of the agreement in mind and not the farmer.
So what’s Farmobile’s official position on data privacy and ownership? And what approach do we take to permissioning?
Those are questions farmers should ask all of their trusted partners. And I’m happy to address them.
DATA OWNERSHIP. Every year farmers author valuable crop stories told through agronomic, telematic and machine data. If they collect it on their own machines, using their own after-market data collection systems, it never needs to go through the systems with the heavy-handed agreements and therefore they establish their outright independent ownership and control. Simple.
Establishing ownership gives farmers the right to use, share, store and even delete their farm data. The Farmobile DataEngineSM platform gives farmers clear visibility, control and use of their data and the right to keep it to themselves, share it with trusted advisors or partners and even monetize it if they choose.
DATA SHARING + PERMISSIONING. As I relayed in an earlier blog, Farmobile technology was built — Day 1 — on the principles of ownership and clear data visibility. That means the foundational technology is built on a complex permissioning structure allowing data creators to share data any time, any place on their own terms.
Here are the highlights.
- Farmobile NEVER shares individually identifiable data without a farmer’s permission. No data about farmers/ownership; farm/location; and field / boundary-specific data ever leaves Farmobile without the explicit farmer permission. (Refer to Image 2.0)
- Farmers MUST give express oral and written permission in order to share their data (Section 2.1) with a trusted advisor or with a third-party technology provider (Section 2.7). Farmers can STOP sharing their data by revoking permissions.
- Farmers can DELETE identifiable farm data if they choose to terminate their data service. (Section 2.8)
- Farmobile ONLY uses anonymized aggregate data at state, regional and county levels (Section 2.10) for R&D or to create new value-added products or services for our subscribers. For instance, last fall, we launched a beta version of the Farmobile Index, which gave participants exclusive access to crowd-sourced yield data aggregated at state-level for farmer benchmarking. It was so successful that, in 2020, a plant and harvest Index is available as a (FREE) value-added benefit to all Farmobile subscribers.
- Farmers MUST give express oral and separate written permission to license data via the Farmobile DataStoreSM exchange (Section 3.1). Transactions are always private and only those farmers, engaged in the opportunity to know the identity of the buyer, general use and price of data. Buyers never know farmer identities without the farmer’s express permission to do so.
You can view the full detail on the web (Farmobile Equipment and Data Upload Agreement).
The point of this post is that every company out there, including Farmobile, must continue to earn farmers’ and ag retailers’ trust.
Farmobile is committed to the cause of data control. Are you?
Farmers are on the frontlines of the debate with more data regulations headed our way. Europe is contemplating the regulation of business-to-business data sharing, and like GDPR requirements, this approach is likely to spread to the U.S. and elsewhere. Ultimately, farmers must consider the impact and implications of the digital age on their operations. In the meantime,
Joan Archer, Farmobile general counsel, suggests farmers take steps to protect their data.
- Be sure to read the fine print before clicking to accept terms of an agreement. Ask to see the agreement before you have to click through. After it is executed, demand a copy for your files.
- Confirm whether you own the data generated by agtech software.
- Confirm that you own your agronomic and machine data from the equipment you own, and a retailer uses their equipment on your field, be sure ownership of that machine and/or agronomic data is defined in advance.
- Can I get the data out of the cab or cloud-based storage systems and into the hands of my agronomist and other trusted partners?
- Ask whether you can have a copy of your data. Ask whether you get your data when you cancel a service–and whether they delete it from their system.
- Ask whether they sell your data to others. If so, to whom? Ask if you can prohibit any such sale. Ask whether they will ask for your permission before they sell your data.
- Ask whether they share or show data to anyone else. If so, to whom? Can this be prohibited? Will they ask your permission before sharing your data?
- Ask whether they keep a record of who sees your data and whether you can have access to that information.
- Ask whether they will share your data with anyone you request for it to be shared with?
“I am happy to speak to anyone about Farmobile’s own legal agreements and how they are designed to protect our customers’ data,” said Archer. Anyone with questions about data privacy or ownership issues can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I said it before and I’ll say it again. Stay involved.
It’s the best way to ensure a future where farmers have rights to, ownership of, and access to their data, including the ability to profit from it. They shouldn’t settle for anything less.
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Farmobile co-founder and CEO. Passionate about advocating for the farmer. #FarmerPower.