A Data-Sharing Quandary (OPINION)

It’s funny how very different marketplaces can be almost identical on certain topics at times. As an example, consider the following …

Recently, while driving home from work, I was listening to a report on National Public Radio regarding the question of data-sharing in the medical community. According to the report, many medical providers and their patients are wrestling with the idea of freely sharing all of their information with everyone across the board (as they sometimes currently do on Facebook, for instance).

On one hand, says proponents, this exchange of big data could prove very beneficial to doctors as they work to diagnosis patient problems and prescribe a response. On the other, patient data in the wrong hands could lead to identity theft or predatory individuals to attempt scams on these consumers.

“We need indiscriminate, continuous, multi-sourced data streams to realize the great potential of digital health,” said Dr. Leslie Saxon, chief of cardiology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, on medical data-sharing.

To me, this report was not that surprising. For the past few years — as the idea of big data has taken off — I’ve heard much this same argument from various members of the agricultural marketplace as well. This particularly became the case once Precision Planting, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Monsanto, began collecting grower data as part of its FieldScripts effort.

Since that time, many of the trade shows and industry events I’ve attended addressing the topic of Big Data have typically split between the “let’s data-share” and “keep our data private” camps. Both have strong feelings on the question.

As in the pro-medical data-sharing camp, pro-agricultural data sharers also tout the fact that the ultimate goal for virtually all growers is to increase their yields, leading to increased profits. Freely sharing data on ways to accomplish this “will act as a tide rising all boats,” they say.

Of course, the anti-data sharers argue back that “their data belongs to them” and no one else should have access to it, lest it be misused or stolen. (And indeed, back in March, Preci­sion Planting discovered a breach of its database, potentially compromising customer names, addresses, tax identification numbers and the like.)

Where do I sit on this debate, you may be asking? In principle, I tend to side with the pro-data sharers. When I first started covering this business back in 2000, one of the things that really impressed me was how willing ag retailers were to share good ideas with their peers and competitors. Compared with the ultimate secretative candy market I came from, this level of openness was very refreshing indeed.

On August 25, CropLife is holding a one-day event looking at Big Data in Ames, IA. It will be very interesting to hear what comes out of that meeting regarding the “to share or not to share” data question.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “A Data-Sharing Quandary (OPINION)

  1. Eric,

    When I am traveling and I trade my location for the nearest restaurants. I am looking to share my location so I can spend money at your location and Google wins because they connected us. I win because I found what I wanted, the restaurant has one more customer and Google get some more pennies.

    When my yield monitor or planting data gets shared you are looking at my profitability and management not an exchange of information for something i want or need. Trading my P&L for a chance for others to improve my profitability is not a good trade because you are promising that someday because I did what you told me to do I will make more money. Big data needs to focus on trading something that solves my problems now, not the promise of profitability, maybe, some day in the future.

    Every time I read that some company is going to tell me where to plant and how to manage, were not in the field today helping me irrigate, making sure 3 irrigation pumps are running or moving equipment to spray glyphosate resistant pigweeds,

    But to put a positive side to the big data dream, we are called to a continuous improvement philosophy because that is the steel and spirit we are made of. We want a world that is sustainable and that food is where it is needed. We all have ideas on how to get there and we are working towards that destination.

    Growers live the barter system daily,we trade to win and sometimes we trade to lose because we know that someone else is winning. We trade to lose because we care about the person on the other end of the trade. Not so sure that big data gets to start with me losing.

    Good luck with your conference and encourage your attendees to be open minded.

  2. It will be very interesting to see what comes out of the august 25 meeting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Eric Sfiligoj Stories

Eric SfiligojA Whole New Precision Ag World
June 2, 2014
Excitement and technology developments could make 2014 a year to remember for precision ag. Read More
Eric SfiligojOngoing State Biotech Crop Labeling Laws Could Receive Federal Stop Sign
May 19, 2014
Proposed legislation in Congress might prevent states from passing biotech crop labeling laws. Read More
Eric SfiligojAgriculture: A Need For The Long View
May 1, 2013
Members of the agricultural community might be tempted to take short-term fixes to problems, but only a long-term approach will ultimately prevail. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipMonsanto Joins Panel Of Innovators To Advance Research …
July 30, 2014
Monsanto Co. and The Climate Corp., its division, recently joined a roundtable of experts at the White House to share ideas and research approaches to help the world’s farmers manage and adapt to the impact of climate change on the global food supply. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Checkoff Produces Big ROI
July 30, 2014
Under the soy checkoff program, all U.S. soybean farmers contribute a small percentage of their gross soybean sales for research and marketing projects that maximize their profit potential. Read More
CropLife 100Learfield Sports, CHS Agree To Football-Centric, Colleg…
July 30, 2014
CHS Inc. will embark on a highly integrated collegiate sports sponsorship platform with 24 Division I universities in 19 states designed to reach the farmer-owned cooperative's rural owners and customers. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Forms New Organizational Structure For Its…
July 30, 2014
The new structure will provide more responsive internal support and will allow regional vice presidents and area managers to spend more time with customers, on talent development and on operational excellence across branches. Read More
Palmer pigweed in cotton
HerbicidesNew Training Modules On Herbicide Resistance Now Availa…
July 30, 2014
The Weed Science Society of America has announced the availability of three new education modules on herbicide resistance in weeds. Read More
HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More