How do farmers, horticulturists and the periphery see data? What developments are they looking for? How do they feel about the ownership of data? Which apps and innovations are useful to farmers? Director Sener Celik has a discussion with various farmers and organizations in the Netherlands to find out how they feel about it.
Teake Piet is a dairy farmer in Dearsum (Fr.). He has just taken over the business from his parents. Together with his fiancée he milks 85 cows with a DeLaval-robot. His business covers 43 hectares (106 acres). His father is still assisting in the business and every now and then freelance workers or scholars are helping out.
Jessica Knol is the vet for Teake Piet and day-to-day manager at Agrarische Jongeren Friesland. She is committed to a future-proof dairy farm.
Sener meets Teake Piet and Jessica in Teake Piet’s kitchen in Dearsum. The dairy farmer and his vet have a conversation with Sener about sharing data, innovations and privacy. Sharing data is no novelty to the dairy farmer. He used to do it as a cyclist, with data regarding his training schemes.
Teake Piet: “When I was cycling and skating at a professional level, I had to reach certain capacities. My trainer could read off the capacity meter. That was very interesting information. I do have a kind of background sharing data. At my business I also read data that I discuss with consultants. For example, MPR is discussed with the veterinarian. We see about how the start-up is going and how the cows are doing, regarding the dry period ration.”
Jessica: “Data flows now reach us via various channels. Regarding milk sample collection, we have insight in the data after linking and after approval from the cattle breeder. Other than that, we see which data we generate ourselves, via a link with VeeOnline (Cattle Online) from the Health Service. Every year we set up a KoeKompas (Cow compass). That is where the cattle breeder enters the data himself, for example the number of cows with a delayed placenta expulsion over the last year. That is all a bit limited and outdated. I want a further shift from animal treatment toward preventive action.”
Sener: “So what do you want?”
Jessica: “What I would like most is to be informed as soon as possible when things aren’t going the way they should. That would allow us to detect trends and intervene and adjust a lot sooner. The outcome of the MPR is always rather late. I would like to have access to real-time data about the animal health and milk production at a farm. You get to the core of an animal health problem quickest by combining the right data with the clinical view in the stable. This clinical view is not something you apply as a cattle breeder, you suffer from operational blindness by definition. In the future, the role of the veterinarian will be that of the professional who can identify an animal health problem at an early stage. This will give the cattle breeder additional control on animal health. There is structural attention for this.”
Sener: “The dairy is pretty much ahead here, in comparison with other countries. Big IT-companies like IBM, Amazon and Microsoft look at our country. In the Dutch agricultural sector, a fair share of data is being released as yet, albeit static and structured data. In the field of dynamic data or sensor data, there is a lot of ground to be covered. In that respect, it is still in a preliminary stage.”
Jessica: “I can appreciate that. Over the last few years, a lot of research was done concerning the relation between sensor data, milk production and animal health. So, we are investigating on relatively basic knowledge, because we don’t have enough insight. The know-how is important for the further development of, for example, attention to cows. The links between the generated data and the veterinarian is still insufficiently functional. There are many opportunities here to be utilized. Currently, a number of parties are involved with those links.”
Taeke Piet: “My robot continuously measures the conductivity. That is our control. I look at it in the mornings. Then I see how the cow is doing, I can estimate that. I’m not scrutinizing everything into detail. But it is a way to help my business further.”
Sener: “Currently, you basically get fragments of data. They are not sufficiently actual. It’s all about being able to transform actual or real-time data into smart decisions. At this point, you don’t get enough, or targeted, smart alerts like, for example, ‘Berta 234 needs attention’, but that will change in the years to come. In my ideal world, a farmer knows what data he’s sharing and he gets added value out of it. It so happens that now, farmers, without being aware, and without this being required, are sharing the milk payment settlement with their fodder supplier. But I also see opportunities where historic data is concerned. A farmer or horticulturist himself should be able to dispose of these data. Historic data can provide a lot of insight with a predictive value.”
Teake Piet: “I know, via Friesland Campina, that data is very important. There are opportunities, but they don’t mean anything to an entire generation of farmers.”
Sener: “We see that farmers currently often share data because they have to, otherwise the systems wouldn’t function. The transformation we need to go through together, is that farmers want to share the data, because it generates a lot of added value. Not because they have to. But more on the basis of a positive trigger.”
Teake Piet: “What can cattle breeders do to gain more awareness?”
Sener: “Surveys show that everybody considers data to be important, but almost 40 per cent of the dairy farmers do not know which parties they authorized for the use of their data over the last few years. When we started with JoinData, 1.5 million unique data messages were flowing, this year it is expected to be 10 million. We will generate more data all the time and sharing it will become easier, I think, technically. However, it is now important that farmers take control and be aware of this. Everything starts with seizing control on the data flows, subsequently, there will be ease in sharing data. Then, profit is to follow, where the added value from the data flows back to the farmer. Regarding dairy, many flows are going across the JoinData-platform. Farmers in the dairy industry now have real overview, control and insight in their data flows, via JoinData. We are currently implementing the same thing in pig farming.”
Jessica: “How does JoinData technology work? It should not become an obstacle in the process of sharing data. Data should keep flowing. Do you have access to your own data?”
Sener: “JoinData is in fact a ‘data delivery service’. At the request of the farmer, we deliver the package, or the data, via an authorization to the sender, who is also allowed to open it. Without authorization of the farmer, there is no data flowing. Technically, we retrieve the data from the source and deliver it. Meanwhile, some 260 parties, like fodder suppliers, have joined, sharing data via JoinData. Currently, there are 70 parties using data for the farmer. For example, a fodder supplier or accountant who needs data to provide better advice, or processing in the administration (e.g. invoices). Without JoinData, the farmer will have authorizations in different locations and also all kinds of separate data-links between suppliers and systems. This is where the farmer is losing the overview.”
Teake Piet: “Which type of entrepreneur has problems with sharing data ? I have just taken over the business. There are also companies that have been farming a lot longer. Are they having more trouble with it?
Sener: “It is not that farmers have problems with sharing data, I think. The question is, who benefits from it? It still happens too often that the farmer does not experience the added value. We still also find companies that don’t want, or just to a limited extend, to share data produced by the farmers. This is because they fear their position will weaken or that the data is competition-sensitive.”
Jessica: “Are health data of animal being shared with, for example, the NVWA?”
Sener: “We only share data after having received an authorization from the farmer. That’s the only way. Let’s say that a farmer wants to share data about manure with the government, then there must be an authorization request in the system from the party that requires the data. If the farmer then approves the authorization and the purpose limitation principle, the data will flow. The purpose limitation principle is a very important part of the authorization, it states what the data can and cannot be used for. The voice of the farmer is heard in every aspect. We are not a commercial party, but a corporation, founded by farmer corporations and advocates. We have to rely on trust. What do you think we should focus on?”
Teake Piet: “If you really want to make progress, you need more involvement from cattle breeders. Because you are carrying the solution, but not enough cattle breeders are aware of it.”
Sener: “We are building on grip, convenience and gain. Regarding the first two, we are in the right place, but we want to develop toward offering more added value for the farmer. Did you log on, by the way?”
Teake Piet: “Yes, I had to do that via KringloopWijzer. I had to get accustomed to it, but I accepted the open authorization requests.”