Posted Oct 2022
Agtech is the buzz word of the moment in agriculture. No conversation dealing with sustainability, environment or production is complete without a nod to agtech as the golden bullet that will provide the solution to all these problems.
The undisputed growth and pervasiveness of agtech (it is here and now) raises the challenging question of who owns your farm data, how companies acquire it and benefit from it- even persuading farmers in many cases to pass on the ownership and use of this data free of charge. Agri data has always been around. It is simply information in relation to your farm production. What is different is that how it is now used and analysed and the information benefits that flow from that.
Agtech is very good at analysing data and more companies are finding ways of developing and growing the ability to analyse and mine data and develop new products and offerings. Monetising something that up to now was not seen to have any monetary any value by the farmers in its own right.
Knowing which cows produced the best milks and calved down easiest, knowing the best type of seed to plant in particular fields, knowing the best time to spray and fertilise crops was all based on data that the individual farmers held in their heads.
Agtech now allows this information to be stored, marshalled up and down in spreadsheet columns, analysed not only within the farm itself but also against hundreds, even thousands of other farms.
Farmers are used to their data being collected and analysed on a daily basis.
Whether it is measuring grass, herd management software, the printout of the constituents of the milk deliveries or indeed going to the mart where information on the animals being sold is pulled in from the Department of Agriculture, ICBF and Bord Bia and put up on the screen at the ring.
Tillage and grassland farmers are making greater use of soil analysis and technologies allowing for more pin point accuracy in terms of seed, fertilisers and chemical sprays.
But who owns this data and who benefits from the analysis of it and other products and opportunities that flow from this analysis.
How far AgTech has come a long way in the last 18/24 months and is evident of the burgeoning growth in this sector. Whether it was the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Tent at the National Planning Championships or the array of other companies providing AgTech offerings. AgTech is now well entrenched in Ireland and it is only going to grow exponentially.
AgTech will provide great benefits and efficiencies to our farmers. The ability to collate and analyse aggregated data will benefit a broad range of farmers and agri sectors.
It also has the possibility to provide new employment opportunities in rural areas as AgTech can grow outside the tech catchment areas of Dublin, Cork and Galway.
However, as this sector grows it is now increasingly important for Irish farmers to have full visibility and transparency of what they are signing up to in terms of how their Ag data is captured, stored and utilised by AgTech companies. Farmers must ensure that they are getting the best return on this not only as individuals but also as a group.
I recently I took the time to review the terms and conditions of a number of AgTech companies. Each of them treat how they capture, store and utilise Ag data quite differently. It is not clear from any of the terms and conditions on the various AgTech companies’ websites that the farmer’s Ag data remains in the ownership of the farmer at all times or that the farmer has complete control over how the Ag data is ultimately used and processed. Furthermore, the impact of the GDPR is, in my opinion, not fully dealt with by many of these companies although this has improved.
This lack of clarity raises a number of issues for farmers and how they embrace AgTech.
Issues such as:
In summary, the general issue of how farmers might ultimately benefit from the use of Ag data is, in my opinion, studiously ignored.
These, and other issues, need to be set out clearly and coherently in the terms and conditions put forward by AgTech companies. To be fair, some make a better job of this than others.
Irish farmer’s Ag data (which frequently includes Personal Data) can be held in a myriad of locations whether it is through Bord Bia, ICBF, The Department of Agriculture’s AIM system or through the many very successful farm management softwares together with centre software.
A farmer could spend a considerable amount of their time reading very dense and overly legalistic terms and conditions. Many have subtle but very complex differences between how each entity processes, controls, maintains and analyses the Ag data.
COPA and COEGA have in a recent paper raised this issue and have looked for simplification and clarification of the terms and conditions on which farmers supply their Ag data.
Looking at a far more developed market than Ireland in the US where the AgTech sector has become a multi-billion dollar industry there is, for example, the Ag data (transparency) elevator programme. This is a system which allows AgTech companies to be certified that its terms and conditions in relation to the use of farm data have minimum standards. Farmers know precisely what they are signing up to as it is set out in clear, concise and very non-legalistic terms. The complex issues surrounding Ag data are well articulated on Todd Jensen, the Agri lawyers’, website www.toddjensen.com.
Irish farmers must do their utmost to retain control and ownership not just of the Ag data that has been collected and analysed but control over the intellectual properties and developments arising from the analysis and use of the Ag data. Farmer’s Ag data has been likened to a new black gold and that it is the oil that will keep the AgTech machine purring. Farmers need to be fully aware of the value of this data and not hand it over willy nilly.
The data of a thousand farmers in a particular sector has great economic potential for the AgTech companies and farmers need to ensure that they benefit from what will be an undoubted growth in this area. Farmers need to ensure that they maintain control over of their data throughout the process and they get full benefit from this.
Agtech is the buzz word of the moment in agriculture. No conversation dealing with sustainability, environment or production is complete without a nod to agtech as the golden bullet that will provide the solution to all these problems. The undisputed growth and pervasiveness of agtech (it is here and now) raises the challenging question ofRead More
Staines Law provide legal and regulatory advises to the Agri sector in Ireland. Our clients include Agri Representative Groups, Agri businesses, Ag Tech, Farmers and land owners. We advise on the impact of regulatory schemes on the Agri sector. We provide advices on Agri contracts and litigation disputes and mediation. We advise a range ofRead More
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