Who the originator of farm data is and why that matters

5th June 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 explore what we mean when we talk about the “originator” of farm data.

One of the British Farm Data Council’s key principles of farm data governance is “Your Data is Your Data”, ie, if a farmer or grower generates the data, it remains theirs even though they may have inputted it into an app, or a spreadsheet or an online form belonging to somebody else. This concept therefore defaults to the “originator” or owner of the data normally being the farmer or grower; from our perspective, if a company or other organisation uses farm data, this originator or owner of the data should have certain rights outside of normal data privacy and GDPR laws, including the “right” of access to it, to be able to edit it if errors have been made, and to request the deletion of that information should they want to.

Is the farmer and grower always the originator or owner of the data? Do the originators or original owners always have these “rights”?

An example might be where the waters are muddier, was discussed when looking at the “value” of data. When a farmer or grower allows part of their land to be used for field trials, the ownership of the resultant data may have been clearly established as part of the agreement or contract drawn up between the farmer and the company running the trials. This might also be the case when a new treatment for a disease is trialled on livestock; the data may be made available to the farmer or grower (indeed, they may have produced the data themselves for the company as a contractor) but in this case, they are probably not the owner of it. 

Some data governance accreditation schemes, such as Ag Data Transparent in the US take such a firm line on this sort of data that they have produced best practice “example” contracts for member companies, to make such arrangements more explicit and transparent to both parties.

What is clear to the British Farm Data Council, however, is that outside such explicit handing over of the ownership of data, farm data belongs to the generator of that data, and that companies who use, store and share that data should only do so with the “explicit opt-in permission” of the originator.

Do agree with our views on the “originator” of farm data? Would you be more likely to trust your data to an organisation that signed up to these principles? How careful is your current data processor in these areas? What other problems might you see arise in this area? Contact the Council 

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