How do users of JoinData view data sharing? What developments are they looking for? How do they view data ownership? Which apps and innovations can farmers make good use of? Director Sener Celik will talk to various farmers and organizations in the Netherlands to gauge the mood.
Yvonne (23) van Oosterhout became inspired by the milk from the dairy farm of her father Bert (57), brother Tom (28) and uncle Corné (48). The farm is located in Wagenberg (N.-Br.), has 270 dairy cows, 160 young cattle and 150 hectares of land in use. Part of this is leasehold and part in partnership with an arable farmer. The cows are milked in a 40-stand outdoor milking rotary. Together with her uncle and brother, Yvonne talks to JoinData director Sener Celik about data.
“Data can help me with traceability”
Yvonne is an enterprising young lady who, during her bachelor in nutrition technology, started puzzling on a product that had to realize a good milk price for the dairy farmer. “I contacted Tony Chocolony. They make chocolate bars with slave-free cocoa, but I was wondering about the prices for the dairy farmers who supply milk for their bars. They did see added value in the idea, but it occurred to me that I could also make my own chocolate bars.”
And so it was. Yvonnes friend made a mold for the bars with his 3D printer. The bars had to be made in the motif of cows. So brown with flecks of white chocolate. Today, the bars with the name Fair to Dutch Farmers are sold through her website and farm shops near Wagenberg. “Processing our own milk is not yet feasible, hence the decision to donate 10 cents per bar to my father, uncle and brother.”
Yvonne is currently studying a master in Food Industry Management, partly in the Netherlands and partly in England. Prior to the interview, she talked to her father, uncle and brother about data. When they looked within their company to see which authorizations they have open, they found that they still had a former feed supplier authorized, from whom they had been away for 7 years, to view their MPR data. “We see that more often,” says JoinData director Sener Celik.
Yvonne and her family think innovation is important, but they also believe company data should be in trustworthy hands. They have more confidence in a cooperative than in a party with commercial interests. Sener explains that JoinData does not store the data. They are similar to a digital post office, bringing data from one party to another. “It’s good to think about who owns data. For example, the data from your tractor or milking machine. Is it owned by you or the developer of those devices? And your accountant? Can he do a benchmark with data from your company? Out of every 10 farmers I speak to, about two are working with data,” says Sener. Yvonne: “Yeah, crazy actually. I’m involved with analytics and data in my studies, but hardly at all with our business at home.”
Sener: “We treat all data as personal data. Because data about a cow can be traced back to an address, i.e. to a person, and is therefore personally sensitive, in our opinion. And we think target binding in data is very important. So data should only be used for the pre-agreed purpose.”
“Making a plan every five years”
The company makes business decisions based on data from Agrovision. An accountant is responsible for the books, but the entrepreneurs do the booking themselves. Corné: “I don’t need consultants to set a vision each month. We make a big business plan ourselves every five years for financing and optimizing the business, and we stick to it.”
The three men currently in the business have divided the tasks. They can replace each other but each have their own specialization. Father Bert focuses on the cows, uncle Corné is responsible for the accounting and son Tom for the mechanization. Corné and Tom also use a pocket PC to keep track of fertility data and somatic cell count, but father Bert is not in favor of that yet. He trusts his intuition and experience. He does use his phone to keep track of the solar panels’ output. We do the insemination ourselves and don’t do pedometers.
“Independent cows and entrepreneurs”
“We are quite hesitant when it comes to automation”, explains uncle Corné. “We want to have low cost and high self-sufficiency in the animals. Both we and our cows are quite independent”.
Sener: “Suppose we go back to the old days, in terms of technology, is that a step forward as far as you’re concerned?”
Corné: “No, not that. Data helps us keep costs down and increase revenues. We also see opportunities for the proper use of data. Consider, for example, the prevention of a double data entry. Or cow detection in the rotary. A cow still knows that she gets fed in the carousel, so it should actually be automated that she is not allowed in twice.”
“Technology and sustainability”
Yvonne: “Technology may leave you more time for other things, but an investment like that does make me feel like you’re more engaged in modelling. A cow should have a natural image. It must remain real life. Technology can help keep your business profitable, but they are still living beings. That is why we consciously milk ourselves rather than with a robot. Then you will always see the animals twice a day and you can monitor them well. Conductivity was measured in our previous parlor, but we didn’t do much with it. Data is very important and is becoming increasingly important. I think we can get more out of it with our company though.”
“Data in traceability”
Yvonne: Traceability is becoming increasingly important to consumers. I saw on TV that you can buy milk where you can see which cow it comes from. Our milk comes in a big tank and goes to the dairy factory. For my bars, data also presents opportunities. My ultimate dream is that not only the milk in the bars is traceable, but also the cocoa and sugar. In the Netherlands, the production companies are getting larger, which reduces the transparency. I therefore only want to sell my bars through smaller shops. That increases the exclusivity, and therefore the price for the farmer, but also the transparency for the buyer.”
Sener: “And what about the traceability of the meat from your animals? Suppose the supermarket wants data on the origin of the cows and the slaughterhouse pays for it. Would you do that?”
Tom: “Yes, I think that’s a good thing. We already produce VLOG milk for the German market. That’s GMO-free. But really, there should be VLOG meat too, right?”
Yvonne adds: “People who buy my bars are buying a story. It is therefore very important that I do what I say and say what I do. I want to be able to give 10 cents from each bar to the farmer. Which he can then invest in solar panels. I also want to be able to tell the consumer that the solar panels were actually installed with the proceeds from the bars. Transparency is very important to me. For example, isn’t it absolutely ridiculous that there is cornbread in the supermarket without any corn in it? Things like that only reduce consumer confidence. I try to address that by keeping it personal. By doing so, I hope that farmers will eventually gain more respect and also be told for once that they are doing a good job.”