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Who owns your precision data?

04/05/2013 @ 9:33am

Data. It’s a four-letter word that holds a wealth of knowledge about your fields and machinery.

“Growers need to realize their data is extremely valuable. The more years of data history, the more valuable multiyear averages and multiyear normalizations become to help create different management zones,” says Tim Norris, Ag Info Tech, LLC. “It’s valuable to more people than just the grower.”

As more and more farmers explore the key takeaways extracted from their data, a debate brews over who actually owns the valuable information that lies within the numbers. For Ohio farmer Mike Zeedyk, the answer is clear.

“I feel all data is owned by the farmer, especially on cash-rented ground, unless the landlord specifically asks for certain plot work,” he says. “I am the one deciding which plots go on which farms. I am the one purchasing the monitors and technology to execute and record these plots. Until someone helps me pay for all these costs, it is 100% my data.”

Relationship builder

Zeedyk does view sharing data with landlords as a building block toward a transparent business arrangement.

“I share some of my plot data with landowners,” he says. “I feel this can be a good relationship builder between landowner and tenant. Anytime I can communicate what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, it helps solidify that I’m doing the right things on my farm and that I’m continually looking for ways to do a better job and be more sustainable.”

If you decide to share your data, Norris cautions not to turn it over to just anyone. If you do turn it over, realize the value and make sure you’re getting an equal or better value in return.

“If you want to give your data away to someone, you need to make sure you get something you can truly use to help make a management decision,” notes Norris.

“If you give it to people who view it as their data, they pool the data, and then try to sell it to a third party, you should make sure you can benefit by learning from the pooled data, as well,” he says. “I see nothing wrong with giving the data away if you will benefit too.”

However, he warns, you should be leery of free services that host data but in the contract it states that if the data is hosted on its site, the service has the right to sell any or all of the data without your permission.

“Read the contract and know what you are agreeing to,” he cautions.

Norris says if you do share your data, you need to make sure you have a duplicate of the raw data (the data the monitors are collecting), because you may need it down the road.

“Too many growers are turning over their data cards from their displays without making a backup copy,” he explains. “They send their information out and get yield maps back. When I ask a grower where his raw data is and he says, ‘It’s right here,’ I tell him, ‘No, those are your yield maps. Where is your data?’ At that point, it’s gone. It’s two-dimensional, and it can’t be imported into a GIS and be drilled down through for the purpose of analyzing.”

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