The Data Debate

Ten Minute Tech

Those who collect and aggregate data have much to learn from each other

Published on: June 25, 2013

I have been asked for my opinion several times lately about data ownership and who should garner the value from that data. People on both sides of the issue have expressed this same inquiry. I have been approached for help by farmers who are producing the data and are looking for more value. Likewise, I have been asked for opinions by those attempting to warehouse and aggregate the data.  

My opinion is this: there needs to be an equal trade of value for individual input.

In this relationship both parties need each other. The average farmer cannot pool data on his own and without field data there is nothing to aggregate. 

The danger is, I am not sure either side really understands the other or how to work together.

Farmer's perspective

From the farmer's perspective, there is a naivety about the true value of the data they collect. This is because the information almost records itself. As a result of it being so easy to collect, the implicit value is low and the farmer feels no loss giving the data away.

The opportunity exists for them to fall victim to someone with a flashy system with neat bells and whistles. The bells and whistles lure them in but do not provide sustainable value over time. 

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On the other side of the equation I am not sure the data aggregator truly understands how a farm operates on a day to day basis. The result is the data they accept can be sub-par in terms of quality and as a result, the information they return to their clients can have limited value. Many are often focused on data quantity-- thinking shear volume will overcome poor quality.

Likewise, I have seen presentations by data aggregators who talked about the results they return to their clients and my reaction was to wonder how a farmer would use the information to make a profitable decision.

Aggregators desire to make money from the farmer for warehousing their data and then selling those statistics to interested parties and keeping that income as well.  In reality, they should be giving a portion of the sale back to the farmer who helped them in the original compilation of the data.

When you look at progress over time you will realize that most innovators have pursued change because of the reward that success brought.  Think of Henry Ford.  His change from assembling cars one part at a time to the assembly line method set his company apart and ahead. However, he needed the workers on the line to be successful. I think this is similar to our industry in that we need data aggregators to pursue progress, but they cannot forget they need to share the rewards with those that help them along the way.