The paradox of farmer’s data ownership: why should companies care about fair data?

As part of our new webinar series; “Lunch Talks”, Fairfood Project Manager Josje Spierings was joined by data governance experts to discuss why it is essential for companies to be concerned with farmer’s data rights. Read and find out!

Agri-food companies and development organisations are both resorting to digital solutions to tackle poverty and environmental issues among food producers. From tracing supply chains, insetting carbon emissions, and maximising yields – digital solutions in agriculture have the potential to catalyse sustainable business practices and lead rural development for smallholder communities. 

The collection, storage, and distribution of farmer data lies at the heart of digital solutions – yet with little acknowledgment of their ownership rights over their data. This occurs in many ways; from not asking farmers for consent over data sharing, to not paying farmers for accessing their data, and a lack of transparency about what their data is being used for. 

While development initiatives, such as Fairfood’s Farmer Cards and Rabobank’s ACORN initiative, are already acting on how to redirect ownership towards farmers, we wanted to go back to a normative discussion on this issue. In our newest webinar series; Lunch Talks, we address the core of this phenomenon: why is fair data relevant? And why should companies pay attention to a farmer’s right to their data?

Lunch Talks: Who owns a farmer’s data?

Fairfood Project Manager, Josje Spierings, was joined by Jonathan van Geuns from Development Gateway, and Sidi Amar from the Fair Data spearhead at Maastricht University, to get insights on the future of data responsibility from established experts in the field. 

As Jonathan van Geuns put it, digital initiatives in agriculture put farmers in a paradox: “While the use of data holds a lot of potential, and strengthens work and life for farmers, it can also incapacitate, bring further data challenges, and inhibit the work of farmers.” 

Ethical concerns are unfortunately not enough to drive corporations towards concrete sustainability and fairness action, it is therefore important to build the business-case for fair data. Sidi Amar highlights that companies should be concerned with data governance for various reasons. Why? To comply with future data responsibility regulation, build operation analytics, and finally use this data to create additional value for farmers and businesses alike. 

Curious to learn more? Take a listen to the webinar, and keep an eye out for the next Lunch Talks sessions!

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