Digitalization has become an indispensable part of life around us. Data has also become increasingly important on farms. Buyers of agricultural products, for example, are asking more and more about registrations of substances used in order to justify that food has been produced safely. Furthermore, farmers must also supply all kinds of data to the government for the Combined Statement and the CAP Eco Scheme. And although there are many developments in the field of apps, models and algorithms to process data and provide insight, the farmer’s data position is not always central. This results in a tangle of systems.
Visualize data flows
Within the AGROS work package ‘Infrastructure for data’ we interviewed 10 arable farmers in the Netherlands to map the data flows and stakeholders on their farms. The arable farmers differed in terms of construction plan, region and degree of digitalization. What is striking is that there is a lot of automatic data exchange on the machine side (tractors, GPS systems and tools), but farmers hardly use it. There are many apps available for farmers that bring together data from all kinds of sources, but farmers don’t use them (yet).
A step too far
Data from suppliers, contractors and customers, on the other hand, is hardly digital and only provides information at company and product level. A farmer has to do a lot of manual work to collect the data and translate it to crop and field level. Only at that level does the information provide added value. Due to the tangle of systems and because systems can’t ‘talk’ to each other, the farmer has to enter a lot of data manually. This is not only time-consuming, it also involves the risk of errors. To then also bring data together for a good evaluation of cultivation or to be able to manage cultivation management proves to be a step too far. The analysis of these data flows confirms the bottlenecks previously described in a study about feasibility on data space on a farm.
Initiatives to improve a farmer’s data position
Fortunately, there are initiatives that are working on this issue. For example, a Roadmap to a data ecosystem in Field Crops has been drawn up and the new project Data in Order in Field Crops has started. We also have submitted a new AGROS || project in which we would like to work on implementing digital tools to use data usefully on a farm. Within this AGROS work package we are still working on scenarios for a ‘data infrastructure for the future’ and a number of platforms will be analyzed to determine to what extent the comply with the Code of Conduct for Data Use for Arable Farming by BO Akkerbouw.