Producers’ growing frustration over giving away valuable electronic production data has led a Guelph-based company to try to stop the bleeding with a new technology called mPowered.
The technology is a blockchain-driven platform that lead developer Joel Sotomayor says will let farmers put crop, livestock, and environmental data in what he calls an “online vault” that only they can access.
That means production information collected through sensor technology and other electronic methods that farmers pay for and maintain will be easier for them to commercialize and share only when they so choose. Anyone who wants to use it will have to pay for it.
Sotomayor says mPowered democratizes sharing data for the likes of production rates, tillable acreage, surface temperatures in fields, water availability, pest infestations, fertilizer coverage, and more.
“Farm enterprises generate vast amounts of valuable data, but have had little say in how their data is used, and have received nothing in return for sharing their information,” he says. “Many corporations view this data as their property — not the farmer’s — and they reap big profits by collecting, packaging, and selling farm data.”
Sotomayor says mPowered will be a free online platform, like Facebook. Users will join, download information into their vault, and create a profile declaring the kind of information they have available. Users seeking such information will find them via a Google-type search and contact them to make a transaction.
“We’ll provide the system to store your information,” says Sotomayor. “You’ll get a notification someone wants to look at your data, and how much they are willing to pay for it. You can decide if you want to release it.”
Using blockchain technology, mPowered will aggregate information selling prices and post averages, so users have a measuring stick for transactions. The decentralized blockchain will restrict anyone from tampering with the data.
For its services, mPowered will receive a percent of the transaction price from the buyer, similar to the way PayPal works.
Sotomayor says mPowered will start with agriculture, but he expects it will have uses elsewhere, as e-privacy demands continue growing.
“Every time you search for something on the Internet, or book a vacation for your family, or ask Google for directions to a new restaurant, you’ve added data points to a digital profile of you that you didn’t even know existed,” he says. “It’s all about informed consent. We want to empower people to take back full ownership and control of their data, and for them to be rewarded for sharing it. After all, our data feed into the research and development interests of these companies, but we don’t get paid for it.”
mPowered is creating an advisory board to guide it through its introduction into the farm community. It will be holding information sessions across Canada through the spring to familiarize potential users with the platform.