Protect and Safeguard Data

April 23, 2016 02:46 AM

New programs help farmers understand how to manage their data

Southwest Indiana farmer Don Villwock uses data platforms to track every dollar he invests in his fields. Like many farmers, he wants to realize the full value of his data while working with reliable providers and maintaining control of the information he generates. 

Two new data programs, the Agricultural Data Transparency Evaluator and the Agricultural Data Coalition, have caught Villwock’s eye to address transparency concerns.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and other groups created the Agricultural Data Transparency Evaluator for companies to voluntarily join. 

“Think of the Agricultural Data Transparency Evaluator as a combination of a consumer report and a good housekeeping seal,” explains Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF senior director of congressional relations. 

      Early adopter Don Villwock looks                forward to new options to                   manage and protect the data he          collects on his 3,500-acre farm of    white corn, seed soybeans and  popcorn.

Through the evaluator, companies answer 10 questions about how their product addresses ag data ownership, usage and control. If approved, they receive a seal for one year that denotes they’re part of the group. Upon expiration, companies have to revisit their answers since software, etc., are often updated. Companies have to pay a fee for the review process. 

When fully functional, you’ll be able to see each company’s answers to questions, which should allow for better understanding, explains Todd Janzen, administrator of the evaluator. 

“The evaluator gives farmers the choice to see what alternatives are out there,” he adds. You might not like a company’s answer to a specific question, but he says you might be able to find another company you’re more comfortable with.

“We want to make the decision whether to use a new ag data product easier for the farmer by simplifying the contracts used by companies,” Janzen says.

The Agricultural Data Coalition acts like a bank for your data. You control what goes in and what goes out. The coalition is a cooperative effort of the following: AGCO, AFBF, Auburn University, CNH Industrial, Crop IMS, The Ohio State University, Mississippi State University, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Raven Industries and Topcon Positioning Group.

Your data is deposited in a repository where it is safely stored until you want to share, move or remove it. “You can store or push a button and decide who to share with,” Thatcher says. “It keeps farmers in control.”

The Ag Data Coalition system is in the infancy stages and only a handful of farmers are trialing the program. The group hopes to have a full-scale launch by 2017.

As Villwock aspires to maximize his data, he plans to watch for the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator seal. “It’s like a sigh of relief—I don’t have the time or expertise to look over contracts,” he says. 

As for the Ag Data Coalition, Villwock is hopeful the program works. “I look forward to benchmarking yield, fuel costs and so on,” he says. “But how much are they going to charge for the service?”

The evaluator is free to farmers. The cost of the Ag Data Coalition repository is still being determined.  

For more information about the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator, including the 10-question process and a list of companies that have received the seal, and the Ag Data Coalition, visit

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