Responsible Data in Agriculture

Report by Lindsay Ferris and Zara Rahman for GODAN: “The agriculture sector is creating increasing amounts of data, from many different sources. From tractors equipped with GPS tracking, to open data released by government ministries, data is becoming ever more valuable, as agricultural business development and global food policy decisions are being made based upon data. But the sector is also home to severe resource inequality. The largest agricultural companies make billions of dollars per year, in comparison with subsistence farmers growing just enough to feed themselves, or smallholder farmers who grow enough to sell on a year-by-year basis. When it comes to data and technology, these differences in resources translate to stark power imbalances in data access and use. The most well resourced actors are able to delve into new technologies and make the most of those insights, whereas others are unable to take any such risks or divert any of their limited resources. Access to and use of data has radically changed the business models and behaviour of some of those well resourced actors, but in contrast, those with fewer resources are receiving the same, limited access to information that they always have.

In this paper, we have approached these issues from a responsible data perspective, drawing upon the experience of the Responsible Data community1 who over the past three years have created tools, questions and resources to deal with the ethical, legal, privacy and security challenges that come from new uses of data in various sectors. This piece aims to provide a broad overview of some of the responsible data challenges facing these actors, with a focus on the power imbalance between actors, and looking into how that inequality affects behaviour when it comes to the agricultural data ecosystem. What are the concerns of those with limited resources, when it comes to this new and rapidly changing data environment? In addition, what are the ethical grey areas or uncertainties that we need to address in the future? As a first attempt to answer these questions, we spoke to 14 individuals with various perspectives on the sector to understand what the challenges are for them and for the people they work with. We also carried out desk research to dive deeper into these issues, and we provide here an analysis of our findings and responsible data challenges….(More)”