Technophiles are not the only workers collecting big data and leveraging it to big benefit in symbiotic relationships. The good old American farmer has been doing the same. Farmers, just as much as any other worker, realize the value of big data to their productivity and efficiency. Therefore, a share and share alike philosophy has been embraced among farmers and agricultural companies, as Shruti Singh and Jack Kaskey report (“Beware of the Data Rustlers” Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/27/14–2/2/14, pp. 20–22):
“For years, farmers have shared crop yield and soil data with some of the world’s largest agribusinesses to help develop technologies that make American farmers among the most productive on the planet. DuPont, Monsanto, and Deere have developed powerful software that can determine optimal seed spacing or more accurately predict local weather patterns. . . . Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer, has spent more than $1.1 billion to buy data-analytics businesses that help farmers micromanage their fields and stay ahead of weather changes.” (p. 22)
Interestingly and predictively, farmers have recently been raising the same concerns we all do whenever we give up data. How secure is my data and how much do I want to provide? Can anyone blame them? All of the very same security and privacy risks we have seen throughout the business community equally exist in the agribusiness world.
As with so many other market segments, the major players in agribusiness are scrambling to create or adopt best practices. They want to give farmers the assurances they need to maximize their participation. Let’s face it, big data works because of big participation:
“The American Farm Bureau Federation, as well as state bureaus in Illinois and Missouri, have met with equipment, seed, and chemical companies in recent months to hammer out policies governing the use of information. They’re asking companies to provide full disclosure of the data’s intended use and give farmers multiple chances to opt in or out.” (p. 22)
And farming used to be such a simple life! Now that big data is here, nothing is simple anymore.