Biggest users of on-farm data also more confident in its safety, suggest survey


As the use of data to manage farm operations increases with both the availability and adoption of new technology, so does the farmers’ trust in sharing this data with suppliers.

In November of 2022, RealAgristudies partnered with Farm Credit Canada to learn more about how farmers’ feelings towards the usage and sharing of their data has evolved over time.  According to the survey, well over half of farmers indicate they are either extensive or moderate users of data when it comes to managing production on their farm with digital financial tools being used by nearly two-thirds of farmers, followed by approximately half using some form of cropping or field management tools. Furthermore, there is a strong indication many farmers feel utilizing data is becoming a priority for their operations and there are plans to use more data in the future to manage farm production.

Along with the increased use of digital tools and data to manage farm production comes a greater sense of trust farmers have with those they rely on to help utilize these tools and the use of of farm data. Approximately two-thirds of farmers indicate they feel companies who they work with to handle and use their data are doing a good job. This is a general increase over a four-year timeframe according to a similar study done in 2018.

Despite the positive changes in farmers’ attitudes, there still remains some skepticism regarding the sharing of data. Some farmers have become more comfortable sharing their data, while others have become less comfortable. The 2022 RealAgristudies survey suggests there is a relationship between how farmers feel about sharing their data and the extent to which they are using data which prompts an interesting question – is a farmer more inclined to trust a supplier because they are a more extensive user of data, or are they a more extensive user of data because they trust suppliers?

To provide context to this question, it’s interesting to look at some of the benefits farmers are seeing in using data on their farms. In 2018, the main benefit seen by farmers was to help manage costs, but today this benefit has dropped to second being unseated by the ability to make better management decisions.  While this change might be somewhat nuanced, it provides an interesting perspective:  Farmers may be beginning to see more holistic benefits of using data for which more meaningful results can be observed – such as increasing efficiency, better organization, and increased profitability – not just cutting costs.

All the perceived benefits and concerns aside, what is particularly interesting is that while many farmers still possess some reservations about using and sharing data, over half of farmers do not know what their contract states with respect to the ownership and use of data.  Those that are extensive users of data are more aware, which begs another question – are those that use data more inclined to read the user agreement, or are those that read (and understand) the user agreement more inclined to be more extensive users of data?

Whether a farmer reads and understands the user agreement is secondary to their more inherent feelings regarding trust. Certainly the stories heard in the media regarding cyber-security and data leaks contribute to one’s fear and skepticism on the subject which suggests that the industry has a ways to go before they are able to earn full-trust of farmers.  That being said, there are several organizations that seem to be recognized for doing a good job. According to an open-ended question asked in the 2022 RealAgristudies Trust in Data survey, John Deere, Bayer CropScience/Climate Field View, and FCC/AgExpert topped the list of reputable companies with respect to the use of farmers’ data.  While this may have something to do with relative market share in Canada, it is likely not coincidental that these three organizations are all certified members of the newly-formed organization called Ag Data Transparent, a group that subscribes to a certain set of core principles around the collection, use, storing, and sharing of farmer data.

The use of data will continue to add benefits to farms as they look to find additional ways to maximize productivity and profitability, however suppliers must continue to find ways to earn trust so that this data can be used to help add value and help advance the industry.

This study was completed through RealAgristudies’ Insights Panel. Want to join? Tap here for more information.

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