JoinData is an independent data platform, founded to give farmers control of their own data. Farmers corporations such as FrieslandCampina, Agrifirm and CRV are members of JoinData. All dairy farmers in the Netherlands use JoinData via the cycle guide. But will they also start using JoinData for other data flows? What are the advantages and disadvantages of sharing data? What apps and innovations would be appreciated by farmers? Director Sener Celik talks to various farmers in the Netherlands, to get an idea of the common opinions.
The farm of organic dairy farmer Nils Spaans is located near the idyllic Broek in Waterland, close to Amsterdam. As the first organic farmer in the world, he has been using a milk robot for 22 years. It’s safe to say that he is a digital frontrunner. How does Nils feel about the big data that is produced by all this robotization? What does he think of privacy? What sort of new apps would currently help him with his business operations? And what are his opinions about sharing and linking data? He sits down for a conversation with Sener Celik, director of data platform JoinData.
At the dinner table of Nils Spaans there are frequent discussions about sharing data, linking and privacy. The idea is: If you don’t do anything wrong, you’ll have nothing to hide. But is that correct? Nils has personally experienced that linking data could result in you being flagged as a fraudster.
Nils: A year and a half ago, my business was suddenly locked. No cow was allowed to enter or exit my yard. It was believed that I, and 1.400 other farmers, had committed twin fraud: a way of getting around the phosphate law by registering cows as yearlings. Afterwards I was able to prove that I had done nothing wrong, just like most of the other farmers, but it did cause a lot of stress and damage.
Sener: How did it affect you?
Nils: I was like: everyone, I can explain. The phosphate law didn’t even exist yet when I forgot to mark a deceased calf for destruction, making it seem like I had registered a cow as a yearling. But I know farmers who lost everything, while they didn’t do anything wrong either.
Sener: Is such an unjustified fraud case the result of linking data, or of human errors during the process?
Nils: Both, I think. Because of the data linking, an entirely wrong image was created. But the suspicions and locking the companies, of course those were all human actions.
Sener: These kinds of situations can occur when there are multiple source files, rather than one source for a specific theme. Of course it’s not possible to prevent such a situation altogether, but in general the process becomes less susceptible to errors if you unlock the data from one clear source, and not through various 1 on 1 links and databases. At the moment, there is a whole tangle of data flows and authorizations, in multiple places. That is something that we at JoinData try to convince farmers of.
Nils: My favorite term is: de-stressing. A fraud case like that does exactly the opposite. While my only ambition is a healthy company, and some leisure time on the side. I don’t want to have to deal with all kinds of hassle, so if JoinData has a function for it: I love it. What I would like the most, would be to outsource side activities as much as possible, such as administration and accounting. Can JoinData also play a role in that?
Who is Nils Spaans
BornBorn in 1968
CareerWorked in mechanization, traveled a lot and has been an organic dairy farmer for 30 years, with his own meeting location, care farm and nature conservation
Other functionsVarious advisory functions
Sener: Certainly. We at JoinData won’t make our own apps or work with the data flows ourselves, but by making the data of farmers, suppliers and other parties who have something to do with the farm yard available at the source, other companies can start developing apps at your request. When we start out, we mostly focus on your annoyances. What is costing you a lot of time, and what do you want to stop spending time on? What kind of app would you like most to see developed?
Nils: A good accounting app! As things are, I have to deliver half a phone book to my administrator and accountant every month. With all the statements, receipts and invoices. Every week I have at least three hours of work. During the summer, when work on the land comes first, it piles up and I have to do it all later. I would love to have an app linked to the bank, suppliers, remuneration companies and all other parties relevant for me, so that I don’t have to worry about this anymore.
Sener: Developing apps does cost money, but it saves you a lot of time! How much would you be willing to pay for such an app?
Nils: I think that 50 euros per month would be the limit. Although, if it costs 100 euros and it saves me 15 hours a month, and maybe reduce my bill with the accountant… Why not?
Sener: Do you have faith in JoinData?
Nils: Personally I do. JoinData is in the hands of the corporations that we are members of, is non-profit and does not have an interest in the data itself. If it were a ‘regular’ company, I might have second thoughts. My father used to work with an independent feed supplier. After he had accepted a sample once, it turned out that the company was messing around with the feed. In principle, JoinData could do the same, but because it’s an initiative from a corporation, there is no reason for JoinData to fiddle, commit fraud, leak information, any of that. Despite the fact that corporations like FrieslandCampina are sometimes criticized, I think: they were founded by farmers, for farmers. That’s enough for me.
Sener: Is there anything else that JoinData could do for you?
Nils: Well… Look, I have milk robots from Lely. Lely is a great company. But as an individual, you are forced to accept their conditions when you acquire a robot from them: this means that you are required to share your data with them. As an individual, there’s nothing you can do to resist that. That’s something JoinData could help with: help farmers stand up to adverse conditions.
Sener: Lely is signed up with JoinData and acknowledges the right of disposal of farmers over their data. I think they have incorporated this in their conditions by now. And I see that more and more similar companies are acknowledging that data produced by the farmer, belongs to the farmer. They understand that it is no longer accepted, and that they also need data from other businesses to innovate. Furthermore, it’s also about added value. If the company uses your data, and offers you a functional app in return, that will save you time or money, you may be okay with it. And this innovation in the field of data is definitely needed. Companies are more and more willing to share data. JoinData tries to offer a platform for all the data flows to come together, and where farmers can have insight into and control over their data flows.