August 27, 2021 | Maz Tannir

Why Won’t Farmers Share Their On-Farm Data?

You want my WHAAAT?

My Apple device asked me recently if I wanted a certain app to store my data so it could deliver relevant content (and by content, I mean ads). It offers more information on privacy but seriously, who clicks on that?

I thought to myself  ‘is it important for me to get relevant ads from this app? Well, it depends on the app. Personally, I don’t want a game to know anything about me. There is no relationship here. However, my news app, the more serious one….well, sure, go ahead. Show me ads about my interests…wait, how do you know what I’m interested in?’ 

Okay, of course, I actually do behavioural advertising for a living, so I do understand how data collection and behavioural information is used to target ads. My boss keeps calling it creepy when I talk about it and I don’t have a lot of friends because of it. But this is often the way the average person thinks about data. They don’t entirely understand it. They’ve heard it’s something they should be protective of. 

Privacy Concerns Drive Reluctance to Share

Given recent data breaches, there are concerns that data can encroach on consumers’ privacy. This isn’t just your credit card information. It’s the contents of your shopping cart, your phone IP, location history, interaction with social media. It’s all stored and then used to serve you ads. 

Many don’t realize the extent to which they’re being tracked and privacy policies are long. Users don’t realize that an open app continues to store their location information, even when it isn’t in use. If you say something, an ad pops up on your phone. You visit a site and then spend days seeing targeted ads in your social feeds.

Consumers are wary. Farmers are, too. And now we also want their on-farm data? 

Farmers Don’t Trust Your Company

56% of farmers surveyed said they had little to no trust that the service provider would maintain their privacy and not share it with third parties.  Click To Tweet

This is the bottom line when it comes to being willing to share on-farm data. There is a lack of trust between the farmer and agtech companies who at times may appear too eager to collect their on-farm input and production data through the tools they provide. 

A 2019 study of 1000 Australian farmers examined why farmers seemed so reluctant to share their data. A lack of laws and regulations around collected agricultural data, wariness about who would profit from the data, and a general lack of transparency were all factors that drove a farmer’s protective attitude towards their on-farm data. 

For example, 74% of farmers surveyed said they didn’t understand the terms and conditions laid out by the service provider. Fifty-six per cent said they had little to no trust that the service provider would maintain their privacy and not share it with third parties. 

Gaining Trust Through Transparency

Have you read through your terms and conditions? Are they written in a way that the average person can understand them, or would they need a law degree? Can farmers opt-in or out of certain aspects of data sharing, or is it all or nothing?

In the same way that we should approach collecting personal data like emails and digital behaviour, terms and conditions for on-farm data collection must be written in layman’s terms. Farmers should be offered a choice of what is shared and what isn’t. They should be able to rescind permissions at any time, easily. 

Tell Them What’s In It For Them

There should be a benefit for the farmer in allowing their data to be collected. As mentioned above, some consumers do value seeing targeted ads over random ads. 

What will collecting on-farm data mean for your farm customer? Will it make the software or tool work better? Will they get more personalized recommendations from the tool?

Ultimately, if data collection has no benefit to the farmer, I believe they shouldn’t have to share it with your company. 

Giving to Get

A grower has so many other concerns on their mind, their data privacy shouldn’t be one of them when it comes to your brand. No matter how big you are, you must give to get. 

A growing concept over the last few years is the idea of the “data dividend”, where individuals are paid by companies who wish to collect their data. While there are some ethical implications – should we view data privacy as a commodity or as a fundamental human right? -, this concept is one that might go a long way with farmers. It might not take the form of direct payments but instead discounted subscription fees or other perks. 

Should we view data privacy as a commodity or as a fundamental human right? | Why Won’t Farmers Share Their On-Farm Data? Click To Tweet

Another benefit to farmers that you might offer is to share aggregated, anonymous data with all users. This will of course depend on what information you collect. Comprehensive, on-farm information about ROI, fuel efficiency, etc, could be of great value to a farmer interested in purchasing new equipment or switching up crop protection products.

The Bottom Line

You probably won’t be surprised to hear me say this: the key to addressing data privacy concerns is to understand your farm customer. Treat them like a person, not a collection of acres. Ask your customers directly why they are hesitant to share their data, and ask them directly what would make them more willing to share. Give them control over their data, and the ability to give or take back permissions. 

If you need me, I’m going back to playing my game, which is now servicing ads for a dating app for amateur astrologists. 

Why Won’t Farmers Share Their On-Farm Data? Click To Tweet

Maz Tannir

Maz uses 26+ years of experience to effectively develop, negotiate and tailor media strategies to align with marketing goals. He is actively involved in industry organizations including the IAB (Chair, Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce and Programmatic Trading Committee), and AdClub Toronto (Digital Day Committee). You can connect with Maz on LinkedIn.