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Data sharing in the agricultural sector

“Data is the key to sustainable innovation in the agricultural sector”
Sener Celik – Director of JoinData

Data in the agricultural sector    
Modern farms create a huge amount of data. Machines are increasingly equipped with sensors that measure, for example, product quality, temperature, and water usage. Smart sensors on fields examine ground conditions and pest developments, and GPS-guided tractors produce data about the dimensions and location of the fields, the position of obstacles, and exact crop position. Data produced on farms can be used for a wide variety of purposes that ultimately benefit farmers in their decision-making processes and help them running businesses that are more efficient and effective. Field sensor data, for example, can be combined with weather data and applied to artificial intelligence to predict droughts or diseases that could damage harvests; data from milk machinery can be translated into insights that show farmers at one glance the health of their cows. Data collected through ear tags on animals can be used to estimate birth dates for pregnant sheep. Data offers a lot of opportunities for farm businesses and has the potential to enable sustainable innovation and growth.

A twofold problem with data sharing    
A premise for sustainable innovation in the agricultural sector is that the data needs to be shared. Whereas data about the number of sick dairy cows on an individual farm might reveal nothing remarkable, when combined and integrated with data from thousands of other farms, patterns might be discovered, and steps can be taken accordingly. Data sharing in the sector is already taking place, according to Sener Celik – director of the data sharing platform JoinData. Parties such as application developers, hardware suppliers, agribusinesses, and banks are interested in farm data and take part in data sharing initiatives. However, data sharing in the Dutch agricultural sector is relatively fragmented: it mainly takes place in silos, e.g. between local groups and between parties that already have a tradition of sharing information with each other. Besides that, farmers have no or little control over who uses the data that is produced on their farms and for what purposes. Data from their milk machinery, for example, could be shared with the machinery’s makers without the farmer knowing exactly what it is being used for or even without the farmers being aware of it. JoinData was founded against this background of data silos and a lack of transparency.

JoinData: distribution of agricultural data     
JoinData is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2017 by farmer cooperatives who aim to make data sharing in the agricultural sector more efficient and transparent. It provides a digital platform that facilitates secured data sharing along the value chain. On the platform, data providers can share data with parties who are interested in using this data. Laboratories, for example, can share their data with application developers, who then can combine it with other farm data to develop new software. But what does a data sharing platform mean for the farmer? JoinData enables farmers to be in charge of which data is shared with whom and for what purpose. When participating in JoinData, parties such as milk machinery makers that hold data about the health of dairy cows need permission from farmers before they can share this data with others. Farmers grant permissions by issuing explicit authorisations. Parties using the data are only allowed to use it according to terms and conditions that are agreed upon in the authorisation. By doing so, farmers retain control over the data that is produced on their farms. 

Data distribution as a business model     
JoinData does not own any intellectual property over the data that is shared on the platform. Neither do they use or modify it; they only distribute it from one party to another. Distribution is at the core of their business model: companies interested in using the data from the platform pay a fee to JoinData for their service. As a non-profit organisation, JoinData does not aim to make profit. Therefore, revenues are re-invested in the platform for further development. Currently, most revenues are invested in the technical aspects of the platform, such as the web-based user interface and security. Besides that, JoinData invests its time and effort in creating new partnerships, connecting all parties in the value chain and communicating the benefits of the service. An obvious question is of course: who benefits from JoinData? According to Sener Celik: the whole value chain. Farmers, for example, benefit because they have more insights and control over data. In addition, they benefit from the innovation that is developed thanks to the data, helping them run their business more efficiently and effectively. Application developers benefit from JoinData because they get access easily to thousands of different data sources, which enables them to make new data combinations. Data providers such as machinery makers no longer need to create their own data collection and processing platforms but can do the same through JoinData. 

The future of JoinData    
As JoinData is already expanding their activities in livestock, arable and horticulture, they soon want to cover the whole agricultural sector in the Netherlands. Their ultimate ambition is to facilitate secured data sharing on an international level. The biggest challenge is to connect all parties in the value chain. Some parties might be hesitant due to a wide variety of reasons, such as perceived missed revenues, or wanting to maintain exclusive access to specific data. Sener Celik, however, is optimistic about the future of data sharing. In addition, the Dutch government encourages data sharing between businesses and state in their Dutch vision on data sharing between businesses report that they prefer to encourage data sharing by means of facilitation but, if necessary, they will do so by regulation, too. This, for example, has already happened at the European Union level with the PSD2 regulation that requires banks to be able to share data with third parties for the development of new value added financial services and beyond. According to Sener Celik, initiatives as JoinData show that the agricultural sector is willing to innovate and unlock the potential of data to revolutionise the agricultural sector.

 

Name

JoinData

Sector

Agriculture

Region

Western-Europe

Countries

The Netherlands

Time

2018 - ongoing

URL

https://www.join-data.nl/?lang=en

Business model

Business-to-business

Participants

JoinData is a cooperative for the agriculture sector: companies, knowledge institutes, application developers, farmers, and agricultural entrepreneurs work together.

Type of organisations

Private organisations

Data sharing model(s)

Data sharing intermediary

Core impact

JoinData gives farmers greater control over their data since farmers can decide who gets access to the data that is produced on their farms. By enabling exchanging, combining and re-using data, JoinData helps farmers and other parties in the agricultural sector to run their businesses more sustainable and efficiently.

Context

Parties in the agricultural sector can exchange data via the JoinData platform based on clear agreements about access to and use of the data. The data is being used by developers to create innovative applications that give farmers and other agricultural parties more insights in their businesses. JoinData aims to encourage innovations, which will eventually result in improved performance in terms of sustainability, profitability and welfare.

Photo of Sener Celik
Image credit:
(C) 2019 Sener Celik
Tags
data sharing
agriculture
Join Data
the Netherlands
farming