What we mean when we say “value”

8th June 2022

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 explore what we mean when we talk about the “value” of farm data, recognising that different people will have different perspectives on the subject.

When the Council started looking at the value of farm data, there was an immediate discussion of what we meant by “value”. We quickly recognised that in some cases, for example, when a farmer or grower allows part of their land to be used for field trials, the value of the data may be very clear because an agreement or contract is drawn up between the farmer and the company running the trials. The direct value to the farmer in this case might be in terms of a payment in exchange for the data the trials generate. 

However, from a farmer’s perspective in this case, there may be a secondary, non-monetary value to that data in that it was generated on your land, and therefore useful insights as to how a particular product or technique works in your circumstances might be very valuable in the future. In same way, data is collected during livestock sales on individual animals' breed, weight, performance, health and this is accessible to the producer as valuable insights to inform stock management. 

For more information as to what we mean when we say farm data, take a look at this recent blog.

Using a mobile app as your car satellite navigation is a good example. The app checks on your location (you have allowed the app freedom to do that) and your destination (you have given the app this information too). It then calculates the potential routes, how long they will take and associated fuel usage. As you drive, the app collects the information you are generating and aggregates it (you said they could). This then helps you and other users of the app by showing traffic jams ahead and suggesting alternative routes.

The point is that your data has a value but that value may not be in the form of money; the benefit is the insight it can give you to help your make more informed decisions. If you and everyone else did not give that information to the app, the app would not work as well, and would therefore not give you so much value in return for your data. 

Likewise, the raw numbers one farmer or grower generates may not provide benefit on their own. But linked to other data on, for example weather, soils, or growth rates, or data shared by other farmers, analysis is possible that can deliver real benefit.

The British Farm Data Council believes that a responsible company or organisation that takes or is given farm data should clearly explain at the outset what raw data they will use and how they will use it. Where value is generated from that data, they should explain what that value is and who benefits. 

For example, a farmer or grower may subscribe to a data analysis package provided by a company or organisation; the package pulls in the farm data that the farmer inputted, and then generates useful, or “valuable”, insights for the farmer’s use, for benchmarking perhaps. For that analysis to be of the best quality or value, you may also agree that your data is anonymised, combined with other information, and made available as comparative data to other users, in the same way that other farmers’ data is used to improve the value of your data. 

So “value” in the data world is not synonymous with “monetary value” because it also describes the other benefits that can be accrued when data is being provided, accessed, stored, analysed, processed, and where explicit permission is given, shared.

Do agree with our views on the value of farm data? When in your mind should the value of data be more specific or explicit? What other problems might you see arise in this area? Contact the Council 

Enter your email address to stay up to date with news from Farm Data Principles