By David Friedberg
CEO, The Climate Corporation
As it always has, and always will, technology is changing our world.
Wireless Internet access is becoming ubiquitous.
Connected sensors are increasingly utilized in many of the tools we use.
Wireless data transmission is getting cheaper.
Data is becoming infinitely cheap to store.
It is getting easier to represent the real world with “data” – digital bits of information that represent a condition or fact about a real world system.
As it becomes infinitely cheap to create, transmit, and store, data can be used to understand the world around us.
And with better understanding we can all make decisions that drive the outcomes we want to see in the real world.
That is a powerful paradigm.
And it will fundamentally change global agriculture.
We could soon see a leap forward in agricultural productivity as significant as was realized with the Green Revolution.
As the Green Revolution was realized through better decisions enabled by new chemical, biological, and mechanical tools, this Green Data Revolution will be realized through better decisions enabled by new data, communications, and computing tools.
But the industry must behave in a careful and collaborative way or this important opportunity could be forestalled by concerns about privacy and data use.
Technology-driven change always brings with it uncertainty. And uncertainty can breed fear. And fear can stall progress. At present, the uncertainty around “what will happen with my data” puts the promise of the Green Data Revolution at risk.
The Climate Corporation and Monsanto recognize we will be held to a high level of scrutiny given our position in the marketplace. We aim to help all the world’s farmers improve their productivity, and we need to earn their trust to do so. We will be direct and transparent about our goals, our intentions, and our operations. With that intent, we have developed the following principles that represent the collective philosophy and operating guidelines for The Climate Corporation and its parent, Monsanto.
The data created by a farmer, or generated from equipment the farmer owns or leases, is owned by that farmer and should be easily managed.
Farmers may create or share data with us to enable the services The Climate Corporation provides. The data a farmer shares with us is, and should remain, their data.
We will make it easy for farmers to set access privileges on their accounts, ensuring they have control over where their data resides, who can access it, and for what purpose.
A farmer’s data will only be used to deliver and improve the services for which they are subscribing.
If we identify additional research with data that can ultimately benefit our farmer customers, we will first ask the farmer for explicit consent to use that data, in a clear and concise way.
The Climate Corporation will make it simple and easy for farmers to permanently delete their accounts and remove the data submitted to our systems that they did not explicitly consent to have retained.
We will not broker or sell the data a farmer submits to us to any third party – this would not be a good business decision and it would not benefit our farmer customers.
Basic data services should be free.
Because it is becoming increasingly cheaper and easier to create, access, and store data, we do not think farmers should have to pay for services that simply access, transfer or store their data.
The Climate Corporation intends to provide farmers basic data services for free. We will not use the data generated, or provided, through these services, for any purpose, without a farmer’s explicit consent.
We will provide these services for free because they will enable advisory services that we, together with others, will offer and which will ultimately drive value creation.
We aim to build a business that charges service fees for analytics, insights, and recommendations that result in improved agricultural productivity – our service fee will be a fraction of the new value created.
If farmers aren’t able to easily access and share their data in a trusted way, the Green Data Revolution may not be realized.
Farmer’s data should be easily shared across systems.
We are not alone in our goal of helping farmers increase productivity with advisory services. Other companies will offer additional services and may do some things better than us.
We will let farmers easily move their data from our systems to other systems, at no cost.
We will take an open and inclusive approach that enables the collection of data from any system and easy sharing between systems. Doing so will allow the industry to more quickly usher in the Green Data Revolution.
We aim to align all the industry participants via the formation of an Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA) – an association of farmers, industry organizations, companies that provide data and advisory services, and other agribusinesses. The OADA will act as an independent body that will ensure interoperability, common data formats, and security and privacy standards across the industry.
The Climate Corporation will regularly utilize third party audits to ensure we are adhering to our Guiding Principles on Data and Privacy.
The safety and security of our data systems is of the utmost importance to The Climate Corporation and the farmers we serve.
An independent third party will regularly conduct security audits on The Climate Corporation’s systems. We will openly publish the resulting audit reports.
An independent third party will regularly conduct audits on The Climate Corporation’s systems to ensure we are adhering to our stated Guiding Principles on Data and Privacy. We will openly publish the resulting audit reports.
These are exciting times. As has happened at the forefront of any major technology evolution, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the risks and benefits of the tremendous new capabilities in agriculture.
We are publicly sharing our guiding principles and our intentions, so that there is no ambiguity about our objectives or operating model. All of our customer and partnership agreements, legal policies, and messaging will be derived from these guiding principles.
Agriculture is not the first industry to face this set of issues – we can look to the issues that emerged in the early development of the consumer Internet, the connected Healthcare industry, and Financial Services institutions to see how alignment on access, privacy, and standards of interoperability were important in moving the industry forward.
We still have a lot to learn. We want to listen to farmers and the industry, so please reach out if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions for how we might be able to better earn your trust.
The Climate Corporation, recently acquired by Monsanto, announced these guiding principles on Friday, Jan. 31.