Farm Data Ownership Debate – Buried in Bratislava

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

Earlier this month I was one of the lucky ones chosen to attend the excellent EIP Agri Data Sharing Workshop in Bratislava. Within an hour the  “data ownership” question was skillfully re-framed to “data  controller & data processor” roles, and the relationship between these roles.

For VirtualVet this validated our entire approach and methodology. We have long believed that “ownership” and the notions of defense or protection it excites, prevent farmers and the wider value chain from benefiting fully from vitally important information and knowledge. Instead, we believe and are implementing a relationship model, where farmers control their data, explicitly instructing us, the processor, on how to use their data for their benefit.

This is an exciting time in the digital agriculture space. Farmers and the quality of data are moving to the centre of every conversation. VirtualVet believes they should always have been at the centre, but it took a while for the technologists and IoT craze to mature past pure data harvesting and in to a service oriented industry.  The use of agricultural data and the importance of farmers’ information and knowledge is well described in Copa Cogeca’s guidelines, but more needs to be done to promote their acceptance. For their part, the EU Commission is developing policy and setting out priorities which support and promote the  use of digital data and information in the wider agri-food, animal health and rural economy.

The workshop in Bratislava was a successful bringing together by EIP -Agri of diverse group of actors willing to accept that perhaps “data ownership” is too prescriptive a notion. While it was accepted that certain industry players and data generators may be more reluctant than others to embrace the move from ownership to control/process, there were enough positive and concrete steps forward identified to make us hopeful that existing silos will be broken down through the informed and transparent sharing of digitised data between stakeholders for a fair value.

At VirtualVet, our data driven business model is taking these important steps forward and we are willing to work with others to speed up the progress for all.

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