Why do we need a Farm Data Code?

The National Farmers’ Federation released Australia’s first Farm Data Code in a major step towards protecting the data rights of producers.
Annual Report 2017-18.pdf

NFF Farm Data Code

by Camilla Roberts

In February, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) released Australia’s first Farm Data Code. This is a great step forward in Australia toward protecting the data rights of farmers and follows the earlier releases of similar codes from New Zealand, the USA and the EU.

Food Agility participated in the consultation process. We were very pleased to see a number of our recommendations adopted including:

  • the inclusion of ‘aggregated and transformed data sets’, recognising that value is created beyond the original raw data
  • reference to the Privacy Act 1988
  • removal of the requirement to mandate ISO standards as they can be burdensome and prohibitively expensive for small businesses

Why do we need a Farm Data Code?

A few years ago, Rural Research and Development Corporations surveyed 1,000 producers across 17 industries. Almost all of them were collecting on-farm data but three out of four knew little about the terms and conditions relating to data collection in their agreements with service providers.  Even more worrying was that where data was shared with service or technology providers, more than half didn’t trust those providers to protect their privacy.

The Farm Data Code is about building trust between the data originators (usually farmers), service providers and technological innovators. There are significant benefits to all parties if data is managed in a transparent way that protects privacy and gives a level of control to the people who generate the data.

On the one hand, sharing data can help farmers  unlock the crucial insights hidden within all of those ones and zeros, helping them to refine their practices and improve productivity, profitability and sustainability. On the other hand, access to great data drives research and technological innovation that benefits the whole sector.

What does the Australian Farm Data Code mean for farmers?

Even if farmers don’t know the intricacies of data and how it works, they can be assured that companies adhering to the Farm Data Code are more likely to handle farm data in a fair and ethical way.  Many companies will see the value in adopting the Code to build trust with farmers.

However, it is only voluntary so there are a number of questions a farmer can ask their technology and service providers about thei management of data that originates from them. First and foremost, they should ask whether they comply with the Australian Farm Data Code and to see the terms in their contract that relate to data. Here are some other questions to ask:

  • Exactly what is collected? Can you please give me the metadata for what is collected? Meta data is the parameters of a data set for example the meta data for one data set might be time, date, soil moisture.
  • How will the data be used?
  • In order to use the data in this way is it shared to any third parties for processing?
  • If no, so no other organisation will access or use the data?
  • If yes, what other organisation’s and what is their role with the data?
  • How do you manage and protect my personal data (anything that personally identifies you or your farm which requires stricter controls) and my farm data?
  • If there is a breach, and there is unauthorised access of my data what will you do? (they should notify you of the details)
  • Porting data (moving data to another provider), deletion and termination are my rights for my data under the Code, what is the process to do this should I choose to?
  • If you become insolvent, where is it written in your policies that you will delete and/or return my data?
  • How are your staff trained to comply with the terms of the Code?
  • Will my data be stored in Australia – in Australia’s legal jurisdiction?
  • Who is your data contact for any questions I have about my data?
  • How will you seek my permission if you require any changes to the agreed terms of use and management?
  • How do you comply with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and the Australian Privacy Principles?

Camilla Roberts is Food Agility CRC's Chief of Ventures. You can reach her at camilla.roberts@foodagility.com.

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