Giving Compass' Take:

• Oliver Moore explores the issues that arise when digitization meets farming - who owns the data and information created by farmers?

• How can funders help farmers use and control data and technology? 

• Find out how AI can help small farmers

Today, digitization—the increasingly integrated use of aggregated data services and tools—is seen as part of a fourth industrial revolution which involves “a fusion of technologies” that can blur the lines between physical, digital, and biological realms.

The world has seen the emergence of drones, robots and AI, remote sensors, and Big Data, penetrating into all aspects of farming and food.

This can be a scary story of corporate takeover, disempowered farmers, and duped consumers. But there are also empowering and inspiring examples of farmers embracing the best, most culturally appropriate, and environmentally and socially sustainable technologies to do their jobs.

Digitization, however, can be part of a process of companies increasing control upstream and downstream in the entire food chain. As Friends of the Earth US recently spotlighted, the same four mega-corporations that control seeds and pesticides (Bayer-Monsanto, DowDuPont, Syngenta-ChemChina, and BASF) control more and more of digital agriculture, too.

Farmers buy into knowledge platforms such as Bayer-Monsanto’s Climate FieldView, DowDupont’s Granular, Encirca and AcreValue, Syngenta’s AgriEdge Excelsior, and BASF’s Xarvio and Maglis.

As advice to farmers becomes both very precise and tailored to the provided inputs and processes, other options, or other approaches, fade out of view. While a lack of training and extension services plays its part, too often the debt and dependency that emerges define the limits of the possible.

Meanwhile, who owns Big Data? When it comes to the mega-corporation’s platforms, a concern is that farmers can’t access their information if they choose to leave the platform. Not having access to information about their own fields and soil moisture can put them at a competitive disadvantage. And the specter of aggregated data being used by corporations on commodities markets may be on the horizon.

Read the full article about when digitization meets farming by Oliver Moore at Food Tank.