Data sharing to achieve data interoperability

Executive summary

New Zealand is a country of entrepreneurs and leaders in the creation of new systems and apps that can capture on farm data. A significant opportunity to automate data collection to match the systems together and see the data holistically still remains. Each company is creative and innovative in their own right, but farmers and growers want to see the data consolidated. This is how they can make robust, science-based decisions on farm.

This is becoming increasingly important as we move into a digital world where information is accessible at consumers’ fingertips – we need farm data to be in this same realm. With the new generation coming through, it is no longer enough to have values and show what farmers stand for, we also need to prove it.

During my Nuffield year I spent four months overseas visiting different agriculture companies, farmers, and governments. I came back with a strong understanding of the risks of not integrating our data. Covid-19 has changed our world faster than ever before. There are new standards and requirements to be met that are being imposed by consumers. No longer can we afford to look at siloed data systems.

We should not be afraid of transparency because the world is demanding it. Our consumers are demanding it. If we do not do it the effect will be that we will be told how to farm because we haven’t proved we are better than 10 years ago. I believe we do farm better. But belief does not cut it anymore. For the next generation coming through we need the data and the evidence of our farms to back up our claims.

No country or system I came across has a fully integrated farm data system. In New Zealand we are well placed to try something new around data interoperability because many of our companies are co­operatives and farmer owned. We are in the premium space and need to hold our premium position. We also need to have all the information available to make the best decisions on farm and enable scenario planning and modelling. We should be able to answer questions such as:

• What happens if I put 40 kilograms less fertiliser on per hectare? What does that do to my beef production and revenue line?
• What happens if I invest in cow monitoring technology and then catch mastitis and disease earlier? What does this do to production and revenue?

Consider the emerging discipline of a farm data manager. The farm data manager will work directly with farmers and growers to determine their drivers for farming and to create a data strategy. Every farmer and grower has different needs, drivers, and reasons for being. Different data points interest different farmers. Each farm and farmer or grower require a solution that matches their driver and strategy.

Farmers and growers need a bespoke solution for them – a data manager can assist with this. It is not practicable for every farm to employ a data manager. Instead, a data manager will have a portfolio of farmers and growers they work with to give them a solution that best works for them. We need to try something different to move forward on on-farm data interoperability.

This report proposes establishing a new discipline of the farm data manager. Farmers and growers are not expected to be finance experts instead they outsource this to an accountant to support them. So why are we asking them to be data experts? Instead, a farm data manager can support them.

Download and read the full report here