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 SfiligojWar And Green Peace
October 11, 2014
A one-time member of Green Peace recently explained why he left the organization after 15 years. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More
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

Top 100 Articles

CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechKaren Arthur Joins AgriThority As Seed Treatment Produc…
December 19, 2014
Prior to joining AgriThority, Arthur directed research and development programs, overseeing laboratory and field research, to build the Valent U.S.A. seed treatment portfolio. Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere To Sell Crop Insurance Business
December 19, 2014
Deere & Co. has reached a definitive agreement to sell its crop insurance business, subject to regulatory approval, to Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. of Iowa. Read More
Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More