How to Own Your Data and Profit From It

Ernie Neff Agriculture

Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

With the rapid development of artificial intelligence, data derived from farms might be more valuable than the crops growers produce. That’s because farmers can make money from their information when companies use it for other purposes, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) scientist.

The key for producers is to take ownership of their information. To do so, they might have to read the fine print in the contracts with the agriculture firms.

“Once farmers own their original data, and give their consent for any access, disclosure or use, they can receive long-term income of their data harvest,” said Ziwen Yu, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

Yu co-authored a new UF/IFAS Extension document that describes who owns farm-generated information. Other authors of the document are Albert De Vries, a UF/IFAS professor of animal sciences in Gainesville and Yiannis Ampatzidis, a UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee.

In contracts, all entities related to data may claim ownership of the information, Yu said. Ultimately, ag-tech firms usually earn the lion’s share of the money from the information by using it for other purposes, including smart devices and their services, upgrades for existing products and data transactions.

In the report, Yu draws a pyramid to describe how farm data are used.

At the bottom are environmental facts — raw information like how much water farmers use to irrigate their crops. Next up are agricultural operation data — the information a grower uses to more efficiently run the farm. At the top of the pyramid, you see “business data.” Agricultural technology companies use this information to make money.

Image by Ziwen Yu, UF/IFAS

For example, if a company would like to use data from several farms for crop disease detection, it must get permission from farmers to access their information and may very likely pay for it.

Agricultural technology partners attribute data from the land at which it was collected, the device by which it was measured, the farmer who arranged the operation rate and sequence, the cloud services where it was stored, etc. These firms own most farm data, including the raw information — environmental facts that farmers cannot copyright, but they can share.

“Some farmers don’t know that or don’t have the time or inclination to closely peruse the contracts associated with the data, Yu said. “But we urge them to read the contracts carefully to know their rights.”

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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