Good practice “Determine the value of data”

While working on Digital Advisory Tools, it is clear that data sharing is crucial to ensure that the use of many digital applications stays easy and feasible for advisors and farmers. However, many questions around data sharing remain, causing a lack of trust for some. One of the main issues is the value of data.

Is data the new gold? Not really, at least not yet in the agrifood sector. But nevertheless there is a big economical value in sharing data. The return is not only measurable in monetary value, but also in knowledge and services. But how to start discussing this in a user case, and get to concrete results?

Roles in data sharing

During the past years of the FAIRshare project, the topic of data ownership and data sharing was a much discussed topic among the user cases. It was noticed that there is still a lot unclarity, starting with the different roles there are in a data sharing case. Taking the ‘European Code of Conduct on agricultural data sharing by contractual agreement’ as a starting point, there are 3 big roles defined.

  • Data originator or data “owner” = person/organisation who has created or collectedthe data himself using technical means, or who has instructed another person to doso. This is very often the farmer.

Besides your agricultural products you are already producing a lot of data.

  • Data user or receiver = person/organisation who receives data from the dataoriginator (or the data provider) through an agreement with the data originator.The developer or creator of the DATS is in general the data receiver.

You are looking for data to improve your products and services.

  • Data provider = person/organisation who provides data to the data originator or datauser through an agreement. The can be laboratories, machinery industry, inputsuppliers, etc.

You have useful informaƟon that others in the agri-food sector would like to use.

Once you understand these different roles, it gets easier to discuss the data flows, and the benefits of sharing data for each of these groups. By definition, data sharing is something you do together with partners. It is a good practice to think about benefits for every group in a data sharing case, because only that way there will be enough commitment and willingness to share.

Benefits of data sharing

When you look beyond your individual point of view and start looking for benefits together in the chain, it gets easier to pinpoint the different reasons for data sharing.

In every case, there can be different benefits for the different roles in the data sharing flow. A farmer giving consent for sharing a data source from its machinery manufacturer, could get better advice in return, while the machinery manufacturer wants to deploy this new technology in the sector, and the DATS provider gets more market share by offering a better service.

You can combine the benefits above into numerous possible scenarios. There are hardly any business cases where only one benefit comes into play. It is almost always a balanced mix that makes it a successful recipe. The ingredients and proportions depend on the specific situation. How far each advantage weighs is again dependent on partner to partner and can also evolve over time. And a good recipe is always one where everyone gets a piece of the pie.

Good practice

To determine the value of data, and the benefits of sharing data for all participants in the user case, it is good to outline the case on paper. Steps you can take to do this are described below:

  1. Who are the actors involved?
  2. What is the role of these actors? Determine the role of data originator or farmer, dataprovider and data receiver.
    1. Who owns the data and needs to give consent to share them further in the valuechain? This is the data originator, often the farmer.
    2. Which organisations have the data in a database? This is the data provider.
    3. Which organisations need the data or their application? This is the data user orreceiver.
  3. How are the data flows? Draw the flows and determine about which data sources you arespeaking exactly. Which information is in a certain data source?
  4. Which benefits of data sharing are possible in this user case? Empathise with the role of eachactor, and think in which form there could be a benefit. Would this actor share data forknowledge, for monetary compensation, for increased market share, for administraitve simplification, for services, for advice, for a discount or for the uptake of technology?


Exercise scenario:

A farmer uses a farm management system to support him/her with his/her daily activities. To allow the farmer to spray and ferƟlise optimally, the farmer orders a drone scan of his/her fields. The drone images are sent to a knowledge insƟtute that generates task maps using image processing software. If necessary, these task maps are enriched with addiƟonal information such as fieldspecific data, soil and water analyses, etc. Afterwards, these task maps are forwarded to smart machines such as precision sprayers or weeders of a contractor. These smart machines also collect a lot of data themselves while performing field work, which a lot of other companies are interested in.

You can use this scenario as a test to do the exercise. But best is to apply these insights to a real-life user case. You can also bring all actors along the table and think together, discussing different potenƟal collaborations, feasibility, (re)combining benefits, bringing in new benefits and commitment in existing cases.

Benefits for everyone?
Every situation is unique: the sector, context and time determine everything and so there are no ready-made answers to this question. Still, there does seem to us one conclusion we can draw across all sectors. Money is not everything.

It is not necessarily gold that we are extracting from the data mine. Many parties recognise that the other benefits such as administrative simplification, extra services or better advice also have their value. It is important to look for balanced and fair added value from each other’s data.


Eva Maes and Ella Derro, ILVO