Farm Data Security Has a Thumb-Sized Problem

June 8, 2016 01:48 PM

The concept of “Big Data” is alive and well on American farms. U.S. farmers are collecting unprecedented amounts of agronomic and equipment data. This has naturally sparked questions about data ownership, value and security.

“Regrettably, those who least understand the true value of the data produced are the farmers themselves,” argues Jason Tatge, CEO of Farmobile. “Our neighbors around the country give their data away for a pittance, or worse. Yet, data is one of the most valuable things farmers harvest.”

Tatge calls the current era of farm data collection the “Wild West” – primarily because of the inconsistencies and general lack of transparency and security in the industry. Want proof? Look no further than the thumb drive, he says.

“Eighty percent of the data that leave the tractor cab leaves it on a thumb drive,” he says. “There’s not a more insecure form of data protection, and that’s the industry standard. Most thumb drives don’t even have logins and passwords. The industry still has a long way to go on being able to discuss the proper protection of data.”

Farmobile is collecting farmer data – stored in a secure cloud behind a password-protected website – and looking at its potential as a new revenue stream. The company collects eight data points (four at planting, four at harvest) to create a uniform Electronic Field Record (EFR) that can be aggregated for apples-to-apples comparisons and potentially sold to companies looking for better intel.

“The EFR is like a trading card of all of your fields,”Tatge says. “One thing the entire industry is lacking is a consistent data set, and we hope we will be able to fill that void.”

This data is potentially of interest to a wide range of agribusinesses, Tatge says – from fertilizer, seed and chemical companies to landlords, used equipment dealers and even crop insurance companies.

“There are a whole bunch of outlets for this data if we can get it into a package that’s easily comparable and portable,” he says.

Farmobile opened a data store in the fall of 2015 in a limited geography in southern Minnesota to test the waters for aggregated farm data sales, guaranteeing $2 per acre for up to 250,000 total acres. Revenue is split between Farmobile and the farmers. Around 800 farmers have signed up so far.

Now is the time to be asking questions, Tatge adds.

“Do you own the data you generate on your own farm?” he asks. “Who has full access to your data currently? Is someone already selling it without your knowledge? Is the data complete? How difficult is it to wrangle? Is the data in one place, or is it fragmented across your vendors and their partners?”

Now is the time to “get it right,” Tatge concludes. For more information about Farmobile, visit

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