* Data standards needed to protect farmers, industry says
* Data services seen exploding in coming decade
* No agreement reached at 1st meeting on Thursday; more
By Karl Plume and Carey Gillam
April 10 The American Farm Bureau Federation
(AFBF) said on Thursday it had more work to do to find consensus
on a set of standards aimed at protecting farm data privacy,
after meeting in Kansas City with a dozen leading U.S.
agricultural industry players.
At stake is who will spearhead the drive toward a common
standard for data produced on farms as the industry aims to turn
information into profit and productivity, projected to be a
multi-billion dollar industry in the coming years.
Over the last year, there has been a surge in the collection
and analyses of farm data across the United States.
Corporate giants in agriculture, as well as small start-ups
and Silicon Valley tech experts, are rolling out products and
services that combine analysis of everything from the row
spacing a farmer might use to plant his corn, to the soil
conditions of various spots in a field, and local weather
The companies say there are big profits to be made in
helping farmers increase crop production.
But with the explosion of interest in farm data have come
concerns, and the AFBF, the national independent farmers' group,
has been seeking input on a set of standards from a range of
industry participants. Consistent rules are crucial to ensuring
that the data is not misused, according to those engaged in the
Universal guidelines on data ownership and licensing would
make data services contracts easier to understand. Common
technical standards for data could make high-tech farm machines
of different brands more inter operable, transmit critical farm
data more securely, and make that data easier to analyze.
Some fear commodity markets and farmland values could be
manipulated or exploited if the data winds up in the hands of
traders or land brokers. Others fear that large seed and
chemical companies could use the information to sell more
fertilizer and seeds.
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
Thursday's gathering, hosted by the AFBF and attended by
executives from equipment maker John Deere, seed
companies Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer and other
farm products companies, and representatives from key U.S. crop
producer groups, was the first of what could be several meetings
aimed at securing industry standards on farm data.
"There were a lot of questions answered and a lot more
questions asked," said Martin Barbre, president of the National
Corn Growers Association and one of about 35 meeting
participants. "We're going to continue this dialogue and
hopefully have more definitive answers in the future."
Executives from Monsanto that attended the meeting said
afterward that they saw the meeting as "valuable dialogue" that
they see continuing.
"The meeting was a clear indication of the opportunities
that the proper management of data holds for agriculture across
the board," said Monsanto spokeswoman Christy Toedebusch.
Participants disagreed on which of several existing data
security and privacy standards platforms should the template for
the industry be based on. Monsanto-owned Climate Corporation
helped to launch the Open Ag Data Alliance, the seed maker's
preferred platform for data standards.
But John Deere has not joined that group and currently
chairs the board of another standards group called AgGateway.
"We need clarity so everyone knows what the rules are," said
Ron LeMay, chairman of Kansas City-based FarmLink, a farm data
analyses provider. "There is a lot at stake here. There is a
huge benefit by being able to muster all the information. We
need to get it right."
LeMay, who served as CEO of telecom giant Sprint Corp.
before entering into farm data, said that one of the issues
deals with permissioning when farmers sign up for an app and
agree to certain terms and conditions.
"This ultimately will be made part of the contracts between
farmers and contractors," he said.
(Reporting By Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Karl Plume in
Chicago; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)