What the British Farm Data Council is and why

14th August 2023

The British Farm Data Council was formed by a group of individuals from across the farming industry who believe that greater use of data can help farmers and growers in the UK to improve their productivity, resilience, profitability and sustainability. However, opportunities are not being realised in part due to a lack of trust in an appropriate standard of data governance. In this article we discuss why the Council was formed and explain our guiding principles.

What happens when a group of individuals discuss why so many farmers are not making use of the tools available to help them make data-driven decisions on their farms? A lack of trust in the tools, and in the companies that sell them, is immediately very high on the list of reasons. So how does one engender trust in such things, ensuring that companies who are using digital tools to extract value (and money) from farmers and growers generate useful insights and share in the value generated?

The concept of some guiding principles for a good approach to farm data governance quickly moved on to the idea that there needed to be some sort of certification scheme for those companies who sign up to those principles. We tested these simple ideas with a selection of people from across the food supply chain, from farmers right through to retailers; not only did they generally agree with the ideas, they were convinced that this was a subject that urgently needed attention.

So how do we make this happen? We started to speak to a number of people who might be able to help. We were keen to not bring together a group of data experts, but to identify individuals who understood farming from many different viewpoints, who recognised the power of data, but who took a farmer/grower-centric standpoint in the first instance and who were recognised as experts in their field. Hence, when you look at the list of members, you will see a farmer, a farm manager, are presentative of the NFU, an expert on livestock farming, an independent agronomist, a distributor, a scientist, a knowledge exchange expert, as well as a data handler.

And so the British Farm Data Council was born, a “coalition of the willing” to take farm data governance principles from an aspiration to a reality for farmers, making it easier for them to identify those companies who adhere to high standards.

The objectives of the Council are now threefold:

• Continue to seek endorsement from across the industry that the principles are appropriate and should be adhered to,

• Organise a certification and governance process for companies to sign up to, to be managed by a third-party organisation experienced in this area, and then

• Encourage individual companies and organisations to join the scheme.


In this way, we believe farmers will have confidence in a list of certified “Farm Data Safe” companies that supply data tools, and will be more prepared to investigate these tools for the agronomic, economic and environmental benefits that they may bring to their businesses. 

If you are a farmer or grower, would a company or organisation that signs up to data governance principles make them a more attractive partner? If you represent a company or organisation, would this framework work for you? What problems might you see arise? Contact the Council

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