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Australian Farm Institute's Richard Heath weighs in on farm data ownership


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Australian Farm Institute, general manager research, Richard Heath, believes big data could mean big profit for farmers as well as the services sector.

Australian Farm Institute, general manager research, Richard Heath, believes big data could mean big profit for farmers as well as the services sector.

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Australian Farm Institute's Richard Heath weighs in on farm data ownership

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WHO OWNS your farm data is becoming an increasingly complex question.

A recent spate of mergers and acquisitions has growers questioning who is profiting from the information derived from their data and more importantly, how the farming sector will.

While many Australians are happy to hand over a loyalty card at a supermarket, the agricultural sector potentially has trust issues.

Australian Farm Institute, general manager research, Richard Heath said a lack of trust in digital products could be costing the sector.

"There could be a 25 per cent boost to the GDP of agriculture, including forestry and fisheries, if there were no barriers to digital agriculture,” he said. 

They won’t have the right to transformed data that has had intellectual property (IP) applied to it to turn it into something else - Richard Heath

"We performed the economic analysis as part of Precision to Decision, a Cotton Research Development Corporation led project.”

Mr Heath said while connectivity and digital infrastructure were the most obvious barriers to adoption, trust and therefore access to data analytics was also a significant roadblock.

However, he said, once farmers see a direct benefit from supplying their data, adoption is likely to increase.

"On data specifically, I think if the Productivity Commission recommendations are all implemented it will lead to some of the most progressive consumer rights to data in the world which could potentially short circuit the trust issue,” he said.

"What consumers will have is the legislated ability to retrieve the data organisations have, that is being collected, from them."

Mr Heath said giving consumers and owners of small business the rights to access their data could be game-changing.

"It could potentially generate a new service industry in making products out of that right to access data."

Mr Heath said it was important to understand what type of data consumers would have access to. 

"It's the raw data, it’s untransformed and uninterpreted data they have the right to," he said. 

"They won’t have the right to transformed data that has had intellectual property (IP) applied to it to turn it into something else.

"Because obviously the company cannot be expected to give away its IP that it has invested in to transform the raw data”.

"For example, a farmer has every expectation of the right to obtain data that has been collected by a header about the yield of their crop.

“However, the IP that has been applied to that raw data to transform it into a yield map is entirely different and will not necessarily be subject to data rights.

"So having that next level of services to do something with raw data, that is useful to the farmer, will be important.

"It will be quite interesting to see how that evolves.”

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