Shared values will move the Agri-Food data revolution into action!

Aker participated in a recent event hosted by FARM Illinois, “AT THE FOREFRONT: Propelling the Agri-Food Data Revolution.”

The two dominant themes for this event were (1) Agriculture data as a currency and considerations as it moves from farm to fork, and (2) How will this group seize the opportunity to enhance leadership and promote sustainable innovation in Illinois?

Rob Dongoski from Ernst and Young was the most provocative of the presenters with is challenge and scorecard on Agri-Food data; Who owns it? Why do consumers and producers care about it? What data is relevant and for what purpose? On average Rob gives C- on how the industry, in general, is dealing with these questions.

Important to note that agriculture data is not a commodity (limited by supply-demand market dynamics) but rather a currency with virtually an infinite dimension.

As a currency, Rob maintains that the study of agriculture data should center around data value, security and fraud, and how this information transacts frictionless at high velocity within this supply chain.

Data has the potential to transform the way we produce, process, manufacture, and distribute the food of the future. Technology is enabling the creation and proliferation of data across the entire agri-food supply chain. Supply chains, however, are traditionally linear with a discrete order of progression – input, produce, source, make, deliver, consume. To maximize the potential of data in the agri-food landscape, we must enable frictionless, transparent, and effective movement of data from farm-to-fork.

Kyle Doodley from CNH Industrial spoke next. Kyle has a background in human factors/ergonomics, yet he is responsible for the CNH’s overall data strategy and analytics. This skill set was a perfect match for his perspective. Kyle explained that the industry needs to work backward to understand valid use cases from the data to guide the collection and analysis. He also established that data acts as an exogenous factor to exert influence on its economic value. He asserted that agriculture data impacts the Total Factor Productivity (TFP) where there is a portion of output that cannot be explained by the input used in production.

I enjoyed visiting at our table with Kyle and listening to his wit. He shared how the largest companies in an industry often are not responsible for the means of data production or infrastructure, but rather create value from the transaction and transfer of data across the supply chain; Facebook is the largest content company, yet they don’t produce any. Uber is the largest transportation company and they do not own cars, etc.

Mark Beckmann, Director of Industry Solutions at Microsoft showed a map with players and actors across the industry and impressed that technology isn’t holding us back, people, cultural barriers, and process are what is holding the industry from full integration. According to Mark, the biggest challenge Microsoft is facing is how do we, as users of data, change behavior to create the most value out of data? Mark anticipates several breakthroughs with personalized data vault and greater adoption of related technologies to create transparency and opportunities for content owners – the farmers – to participate in the monetization stream of their data.

Aker is thrilled to be part of this effort. We bring a unique dataset to support in-season crop management to improve grower efficiency and customer service platform for Ag retailers and suppliers. Here are some my biggest takeaways from this event:

  1. Trust is the glue and the grease to help hold and mobilize agriculture data and the intrinsic value across the supply chain.
  2. Technology is not an answer. The real effort is exploring shared values to overcome barriers to adoption and change.
  3. My take: FARM Illinois has a unique opportunity to be not only an industry convener but also take an active role as a publisher and storyteller consolidating industry knowledge for the benefit of educating consumers.

Illinois has a lot of assets to support the industry move from participant to innovator with shared values that can engage the rest of the world in this conversation.

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