One of the questions at the Raven Media Summit last week amongst a panel of farmers was, "who actually owns the precision farming data generated in your operation?" Some people now have nearly 20 years worth of data in the form of yield maps and nutrient variable-rate application information tucked away in files.
Walt Bones, a farmer and former Director of Agriculture in South Dakota, kicked off the discussion. Bones believes it's a natural 'next big thing' debate for precision agriculture. Companies are already putting together prescriptions using various sources of data. The consensus is that some will charge for the service. You could potentially be paying for information which was partially assembled using your own data.
The debate is not new. Like most things in precision farming the first round of debate back in the '90s was premature. People didn't know what to do with the data yet anyway, so although it was identified as an issue, talk soon turned back to the bells and whistles of precision farming, rather than the decision-making piece.
John Cruise, Wesley, Iowa, is collecting all the data he can. And he's emphatic that it is his data.
"I believe I should be the disseminator of my information, and the one who decides who gets to use my data or not," he says. "It has value, and it's mine. I believe we're at a crossroads on this discussion, and that it hasn't shaken out yet."
One farmer pointed out a situation a few years ago where a fertilizer dealership offered to soil test his ground. He let them. But then later when he wanted to shift to an independent agronomist and no longer use their services, they wouldn't let him have all the data they had collected on his land.
"I paid for it but I couldn't get it," he says." I learned a hard lesson, and I won't do that again."