Isn’t it great? Agriculture is literally going science-fiction. Robots pick fruit, drones check soil humidity and the tractors are in the field all by themselves. And the greatest thing: Each little detail is recorded: There are already applications that measure farm labor perfomance, thousands of details about plant health and many other aspects of agricultural production.
Who owns this data? Many farmers might say: Who cares?
Data can be used to understand the value of your crop, the degree of potential damage by pests or climate change. You might not be aware of it – but in the future someone on the planet could know more about the value of your products than you do – long before you deliver. You do not know this person. But he might sell his findings to your bank, your insurance company or your client. Satellites, drones, sorting machines, picking robots, cold store facilities have all started collecting data – big data. This data might tell a lot about the status of your harvest, the quality of your products and productivity. This data could be used to make your business more efficient. But it can also be used against you.While Big data has the great potential to help the fresh produce industry to be more efficient and save on resources like seeds, water, pesticides it can also be a powerful weapon in the hands of the wrong people. Growers, Processors, Exporters and Retail Chains have to understand that data about crops will become a very valuable commodity.
Who owns agriculture big data?
Who is already gathering big data from fields, containers, cold storage, sorting machines?
Who will collect data in the future? Will you know about it?
Who will have the right to merge data from different sources?
Who will have the right to exploit data in horticulture?
Who will have the right to sell big data in horticulture?
The fresh produce industry should start discussing the matter as early as possible. When systems are in place that will connect data from scanners, drones, picking robots, even spraying and irrigation systems, sorters, processing and packing machines it might be too late. An algorithm might be telling you in future, if your bananas, avocados or apples are worth buying. An algorithm you have never heard of. With data from your processing plant, your cold storage facility and your shipping agent.
Salah Sukkarieh, Professor Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics highlighted the issues around big data and ownership of big data in his recent interview with the Fruit World. He takes the question one step further by asking who will own agriculture in general in the future: The growers, the supermarkets, the seed companies, the crop protection companies? But Sukkarieh makes it clear that the question of data ownership will be vital for the industry in the future.
Professor Salah Sukkarieh is an international expert in the research, development and commercialization of field robotic systems. He has led a number of robotics and intelligent systems R&D projects in logistics, commercial aviation, aerospace, education, environment monitoring, agriculture and mining, and has consulted to industry including Rio Tinto, BHP, Patrick Stevedores, Qantas, BAE Systems, QLD Biosecurity, Meat and Livestock Australia, and the NSW DPI amongst others. In 2014 he was awarded the NSW Science and Engineering Award for Excellence in Engineering and Information and Communications Technologies.
This is an ongoing topic which should be considered by all people in the industry. We invite your comments, considerations and opinions.