Recently during a chat about upgrades to the company's AFS Connect system, I had a conversation with some folks from Case IH - Dan Danford, who works in communications and Joe Michaels, senior director, specialty business.
Case IH is adding new features to the AFS Connect service, some are available now, and more is to come (see video at the end of this blog). It's exciting as data gathering and field telematics make it easier to manage and monitor equipment at work. There's nothing quite like looking at what an actual tractor is doing in a field in Arizona when you're sitting in an office in Minnesota (yes we did that).
Yet another part of the conversation was a look at the results of some survey work Case IH did in taking a deeper look at how farmers view the data they collect, and how it's handled by different providers.
Danford shared the results of a January study of farmers that showed some interesting conclusions. In the January survey of 331 respondents just over one-fifth believe their supplier owns the data from their system, or they don't know who owns the data. Most respondents - 80% - want to own their data and decide who gets access. As far as sharing is concerned, most respondents of that survey don't want the government to have access or farmers in the area to see their data; and there appeared to be some confusion over the different types of data being collected - machine, agronomic or personal. These are different data types.
After seeing the results of the broader research Danford explains that Case IH wanted to go deeper so the company reached out to 22 farmers with a wide-ranging set of backgrounds, farm sizes and types and conducted an interesting in-depth survey technique.
"The survey tool would show each of the farmers other farmers' answers, but only when they answered a question themselves," Danford explains. This open-platform survey allowed for interaction on different questions and topics revolving around data ownership. The online-forum was a two day event for those participating. It was a type of digital focus group.
And there are some broad conclusions from this conversation.
First, most participants are not familiar with the fine-print of the agreement they have with their system provider. "As the discussion board continued, it was obvious that participants were reconsidering the importance of ag data control," Danford says. "The early comments were kind of flippant, but as the conversation continued, the participants were expressing more ownership concerns."
Second, participants expressed concern about how their data was being used, shared and the possible impact that might have on leases, input costs and government insight.
Third, the challenge of transferring data between brands came up too among those that have done it and those that haven't because they can't. "There's an interest in sharing data between platforms," Danford says. "And they want it to be simple."
Essentially, it appears as growers talked they wanted to go back and read those agreements they signed to get access to the data tools they're using in their operations. Case IH, which is open about its pitch that your data is "mine not mined" is working to drive the conversation. They were an early supporter of the Open Ag Data Alliance, and continue to work with that group.
Data ownership is going to be a growing concern for 2015 and beyond. And perhaps the starting point is understanding what type of data you're talking about. Here's a quick definition of terms to consider when looking at an agreement. We'll be looking more into this in the coming weeks (as we have in the past) as this conversation continues.
Machine data - this is the operational information from the machine. All major data platforms collect this information as a baseline and it's something that can be helpful for the farmer. Joe Michaels explains that this information is used by companies for improved performance and product development. For example, it can help refine machine design based on in-field performance. Case IH does collect this information as part of its arrangement - using it only internally.
Agronomic data - this is the yield, seed, as-applied data for your farm. This is information that has a different value. This is also information you often choose to share with a trusted partner. Understanding how this information is collected, and aggregated may matter to you. For some farmers in the Case IH small-group forum sharing that information wasn't an issue, for others it did matter.
Personal data - this is your name, social security number and other key personal information that shouldn't be shared easily.
When you talk about data sharing, there's one factor about agriculture that's different than consumer privacy worries. The farm is your life - and as one online forum participant noted - "If I'm creating it, it's all personal."
We'll keep the conversation going on this topic. If you have some thoughts, sign in and comment below. We welcome your input.
Oh, and as for those AFS Connect upgrades? Joe Michaels shared those in the video you can watch below (thanks to Jen Koukol, my colleague at Corn + Soybean Digest for this video):