The Western View: Big Data

Taylor Hillman Features, Western View

The American Farm Bureau Federation has been studying the privacy and security issues associated with “Big Data”. Staff members held meetings in 2014 with growers, Ag tech providers, and others to consider the issues. Turns out, there’s lots to think about.

The Western View: Big Data

“Big Data” is a computing term which refers to large amounts of information about a specific subject. In this case, it’s all the information that makes up a farm – acreage, soil conditions, weather, pesticide use, and so on. This data is being collected by all sorts of devices and in many ways, and has become an inescapable fact of life.

The data collected is very useful for farm management not only by the grower, but by any company that affects conditions on the farm – chemical companies, equipment manufacturers, and so on. Farm Bureau brings up 13 points that growers need to keep in mind.

First is, who owns it? It should belong to the grower, but he needs to stay on top of any data collection that is going on to insure it remains his property, even if someone else uses it. Likewise, no data should be collected unless the grower knows about it and gives consent. And how about disclosure? The grower should be told in advance who will see the data and how it will be used. All of these things should be covered in a written agreement which the grower can terminate at any time.

Also the data should be protected. Could the data be useful to someone else? For example, does the data deal with the usability of leased land than someone else might want to lease? There could be conflicts of interest or competitive issues involved, and the grower needs assurance his rights will be respected. Farm data should be protected with reasonable security safeguards against risks such as loss or unauthorized access or disclosure. Polices for notification and response in the event of a breach should be established.

There’s a lot to think about here. For more information go to and take a look at the Farm Bureau Big Data Resources page.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.