Press release: 2018, Year of Data in Agriculture

Joke Schauvliege, Flemish Minister of Environment, Nature and Farming, has placed the emphasis on data in farming in 2018.

More sustainability, international competition, transparency, scaling-up, profitability, climate and environmental challenges…The agro-food chain of the 21st century finds itself in a complex production context. Within that environment, data-driven decision-making is more needed than ever. At the same time a digital revolution has created a game-changer and engine for this change: the Internet of Things (IoT). When separate data silos connect with each other, new data platforms come into existence. Add some (self-learning or not) algorithms, and an enormous amount of new knowledge pops up with as-yet unknown potential.

Joke Schauvliege: “Mapping the opportunities and bottlenecks of development and implementation of smart-data systems in practice is useful – also for policy regarding ownership of original data and data-sharing. In the context of legislation around privacy and personal data, which will come into effect next year. It’s likely that the smart-farming developments will also need to be harmonized with Flemish policy on industry 4.0.”

A first initiative in the “Year of Data in Agriculture” was the interactive seminar organized door ILVO (Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) at the Agribex trade show in Brussels (December 2017). Farmers, farm workers, suppliers, agricultural organizations and policy-makers were challenged to think about the ocean of digital data (milking robots, activity meters, climate regulators, crop and soil sensors, cameras, intelligent machines, and assorted automatic registrations and measurements) that are now generating numbers at a fast pace. But how can you deal with big data on your farm?

Jurgen Vangeyte (ILVO – IOF2020 and ILVO precision farming): “2018 will be the year that we give further attention to new applications of this data and the opportunity to gain extra knowledge from them. Knowledge that can provide continuous feedback to the daily activities in the field and the barn. Insights from data often challenge the farmer’s intuitive management choices; together they make the farm smarter, more efficient, more competitive and more profitable.”

Tom Van Bogaert (Flanders Department of Agriculture and Fisheries): “Smart farming also requires a certain amount of responsibility from the various actors. Data need to reach the optimal volume, variety and speed in order to function best. Creating value from data requires collaboration from a number of partners and everyone in the chain must handle the data correctly. A sustainable ecosystem requires transparent rules about ownership of the original data sources as well as the value created.”

Stephanie Van Weyenberg (ILVO Precision Agriculture): “The fast development of ICT and sensor-based technologies and software result in a gigantic and growing amount of data can be generated and may become available to all farming sectors and throughout the entire chain. To date only a small portion of this data is being used and shared with partners such as advisors, suppliers, buyers, consumers and government. Integrating this data would create economic opportunities throughout the entire agro-food chain.”

Questions discussed during the Agribex seminar were: Who is the owner of the data generated on and around the farm? Who has control over, and who has access to the data? How feasible and desired is greater transparency within the entire chain? How should ownership issues be resolved? And what about privacy?