The ag data transformation of agriculture is well underway. Five years ago, the Ag Data Transparent (ADT) launched with a mission to bring clarity and simplicity to farmers’ decisions to use online ag data platforms. The central part of ADT’s vision was fulfilled by creating a certification process that involved tech providers answering 10 questions about how they collect, share, and use farmers’ ag data.  

Online ag data platforms have matured a lot since 2016, and so it was time for the ADT’s certification to mature as well. This past fall, the ADT undertook a process of updating its certification questionnaire. A number of new and updated questions were added as part of the process. Here is an explanation of some of the changes. 

Defining who the tech company is. One of the ADT’s Core Principles was that “terms” in contracts should be well defined. This includes the description of the tech provider: 

Farmers should know with whom they are contracting if the ATP [ag tech provider] contract involves sharing with third parties, partners, business partners, ATP partners, or affiliates. ATPs should clearly explain the following definitions in a consistent manner in all of their respective agreements: (1) farm data; (2) third party; (3) partner; (4) business partner; (5) ATP partners; (6) affiliate . . . 

The updated certification questionnaire now begins with a new question:  “Who is the tech company?” This seems simple and obvious, but many companies today use “we” and “us” in their contracts as descriptions for the company and its affiliates. Now ADT certified companies will have to explain who they are.

Defining who the user is.  The updated certification also requires tech companies to explain who the primary users of their platform are. The original ADT certification called these people “farmers,” but the reality is that many ag tech users are not farmers—they are agronomists, seed dealers, landowners, ranchers, ag retailers, etc.  The new, broader definition of who uses ag tech platforms reflects this reality. 

Aggregating data.  The updated certification now requires tech company to identify whether users have the ability to “opt-out” of aggregated data sharing. Question 4 states: “Does the tech company allow the user to opt out of inclusion in anonymized and aggregated datasets that are accessible by other users?”  Notably, there is not a right or wrong answer to this question. Some platforms allow users to opt-out of data sharing, others require it. That is fine. What matters is that users know their options for sharing data when signing up. 

Selling data. The revised certification also asks tech companies to inform users if the tech company intends to sell aggregate data to third parties without user consent. One of the big concerns voiced by farmers five years ago and today is whether their data can be sold to others. The updated questionnaire addresses this concern.  

The other questions asked as part of the original certification remain mostly as before. That reflects that many of these issues five years ago—data ownership, portability, consent — are still issues requiring more clarity today.  

To learn more about the ADT’s updated 11 question certification form, visit the Ag Data Transparent website