Be Careful About Who Gets Your Crop Data

Precision farming specialist says data ownership is a big deal.

Published on: Feb 25, 2013

John McGuire operates Simplified Technology Services in Montpelier, Ohio. He travels the Midwest talking – and blogging on www.FarmFutures.com – about precision ag and if it can benefit you. Recently he stopped in Franklin, Ind., at a clinic sponsored by Greene Consulting, also of Franklin, Ind. Farmers listened intently to what he had to say at lunch, and seemed to appreciate the message.

"Data security is going to be a big deal as we get deeper into precision farming," he says. "We're now getting to where guys are actually making use of their data. There is value in it. Other companies have already figured that out."

Strong conviction: John McGuire is cautioning farmers about making sure they know how crop data they collect is being used.
Strong conviction: John McGuire is cautioning farmers about making sure they know how crop data they collect is being used.

That's why several companies are offering personalized services to help you select hybrids, populations and other decisions on your farm, he notes. Sometimes they charge for the service, sometimes they don't charge customers. Sometimes they're basing decisions on only your data, but sometimes they're using data gleaned from other farmers as well.

The data ownership discussion dates back to the early days of precision farming. Not long after yield monitors produced the first yield maps some 20 years ago, university specialists began predicting that there would be value in data. The argument went dormant for many years because a multitude of farmers and consultants shoved the data in the drawer, not quite sure what to do with it. Now that many people believe it has value, the ownership issue is on the table again.

McGuire is suggesting that producers understand who is getting access to their data. If you work with any consultant, understand upfront whether your data will be used elsewhere. He believes the important thing is that it is your data, and you should know how it's being used.

 If you grant permission to use it, and will benefit from it being pooled with data from other farmers in some way, that's one thing – but you ought to have the decision to choose if your data is used in certain ways or not, he concludes.