As a semi-avid user of social media outlets, I’ve come to terms with the fact that conversations with friends and professional colleagues now often start with ‘I saw on Facebook that you’… (insert activity here.)
Initially, I was a little thrown by these introductions because I wasn’t always the one posting or tweeting about my exploits. Not that I have anything to hide, but it still seemed odd to be “checked in” by someone for millions of people to see.
Such is the world we live in today and sharing a glib comment or awkward photo online is second nature for many, with sometimes casual consideration for potential consequences or privacy concerns.
But this cavalier approach is less common when it comes to farmers sharing their precision farming data, despite a generational shift. As one precision farming manufacturer notes, the younger generation of farmer doesn’t have a problem telling people where they are or what they are doing. But when it’s information about their farm, they are much more careful about whose eyes see it.
“The most important element for them is trust,” the manufacturer says. “Whoever they are sharing their data with, it has to be a two-way street because if that trust is betrayed, then it’s lost.”
Recent high-profile data security breaches involving consumer giants Target and Neiman Marcus have not gone unnoticed by farmers, manufacturers and dealers. With precision data security already a hot-button issue, these incidents have reinforced the need to assure farmers that their “advisors” can truly be trusted.
Industry giants like John Deere, Monsanto, Raven Industries and DuPont Pioneer are collaborating to capture, quantify and analyze on-farm data and turn it into tailored field prescriptions for farmers. These collaborators are integrating farm machinery, seed-hybrid genetics and precision technology with a stated goal of increasing yields, slashing input costs and maximizing profit per acre.
These companies are also issuing privacy statements to put farmers at ease when it comes to the security and safety of their shared data. Talking with representatives of companies invested in prescription farming programs, they emphasize that farmers have ownership and control of their data.
“We’ll let them hit that delete button whenever they want to,” says a representative with one company offering prescription planting packages to farmers. “If we don’t, we’re not going to get their trust.”
But as more data is harvested and analyzed, some wonder whether it will be all about the farmer. “How much data will be captured and put into people’s back pockets,” asks one product manager with a farm equipment manufacturer. Time will tell.
For precision farming dealers, they serve as technology bridges — making sure accurate information is gathered in the field with equipment and then safely transferred to an agronomist or consultant for analysis.
Or as one dealer from Iowa says, “We’re kind of like data guardians. It’s our job to make sure that data is accurately collected and protected. That’s how we build trust with customers.”