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Q&A: Jason Tatge, CEO Farmobile

As farmers have become more aware of the value their data holds, they are demanding greater transparency from vendors who have access to that information. 

Through his company, Farmobile, Jason Tatge is working to create an environment that not only centers around transparency but also helps farmers reap the rewards of sharing data.

SF: Why is it important for farmers to have better control of their data? 

JT: Every day farmers make choices and decisions on the farm that comprise a proprietary recipe. There’s value not only in what they produce but also in the information they collect on how they produced it.

When farmers have control over their data, they’re able to truth hunches in the field, share their data with trusted partners, or even use it to generate greater new income. By having control of their own data, farmers can ensure their data is working to their benefit.

SF: What are farmers looking for in a transparent legal agreement?

JT: Farmers want to understand what data is being collected, who has access to it, and how they’re able to interact with it. They also want to govern permissions and control the flow of that data. They’re not asking unreasonable questions. They’re asking what data we’re collecting, who owns the data that comes off their equipment, and where it’s stored. They also want to know if we retain copies if they choose to move their data. 

Farmers are finding it hard to trust companies who can’t or won’t answer these simple questions. We believe that companies who champion real, demonstrable transparency are going to gain a competitive edge in the market, as farmers gain a better understanding of the value of their data and the role it can play on their farm.

SF: What are you hearing from your customers when it comes to transparent legal agreements?

JT: There’s a lot of mistrust and confusion among farmers. The first question Farmobile is typically asked by our customers is “What are the other big companies doing with my data?” Our answer is that we simply don’t know. When no one can tell farmers what is happening to the data going into corporate servers, it makes them uncomfortable.

Farmers want a clear understanding of what’s happening with their data, and they want it from the get-go. Simple, transparent legal agreements and clear privacy policies are key.

SF: How will farmers hold vendors accountable to the promise of transparency?

JT: Right now it’s pretty difficult. Big companies can voluntarily commit to transparency, but that still isn’t the norm. Farmers have to work with and buy from companies that regularly conceal how they’re using data from the very farmers who provided it.

There will be a significant shift in the balance of power when farmers own the data they generate. By owning a comprehensive, objective record of everything that happens on their land, farmers will be able to track and monitor the operations independently, cross-check recommendations and prescriptions they receive from precision ag companies, and keep a definitive record that allows them to transfer knowledge from generation to generation.

In other words, by owning their data, farmers gain a picture of objective reality they’ve never had before. Data is power. It’s hard to argue with information that has been ground-truthed.

SF: Why haven’t companies that agreed to be part of the Ag Data Transparency Evaluator not yet followed through on their promises?

JT: There are a few possibilities. One is that the companies are hoping the issue of data transparency will go away, and they’ll get by on empty promises before farmers start holding them accountable. Another is that companies may already have third-party agreements in place that allow them to transfer or sell data, and they’re not ready to reveal how those agreements really work because it wouldn’t reflect well on them. It’s also possible there are companies who simply make too much money on collecting farmers’ data for free and then selling them additional services based on that data. 

SF bio

Name: Jason Tatge

Title: Cofounder & CEO of Farmobile

Home: Bucyrus, Kansas

Background: Tatge earned a financial economics degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, and an MBA from The Fogelman School at the University of Memphis.

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