Farm Credit Canada is the first Canadian company certified through Ag Data Transparent, a program based on data principles established by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Sharing data? Look for companies with ADT certification

Farmers can see big improvements in business and agro-nomy decisions by putting their data to use, but that often requires them to share their data with providers of outside expertise. This can make farmers nervous about how their data is collected, used and controlled. A positive data-sharing relationship depends on trust.

With a recent upgrade to its AgExpert platform, including new web-based versions of AgExpert Field (fcc.ca/agexpertfield) and AgExpert Accounting, Farm Credit Canada (FCC) knew that trust would be essential to expand these services to existing and new farmer customers.

So FCC became the first Canadian company to receive Ag Data Transparent (ADT) certification.

“We realized we were collecting an awful lot of producer data,” says Fred Wall, FCC marketing vice-president. “This third-party verification shows farmers they can trust us with their information.”

ADT origins

ADT began with farmers. About five years ago, the American Farm Bureau Federation had lots of farmer members raising the issue of data security. So it held meetings with its members, U.S. commodity organizations and key companies in the digital space and came up with a ground-rules document called “Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data.”

Clauses in the document include:

  • Collection, access and use of farm data should be granted only with the affirmative and explicit consent of the farmer. This will be by contract agreements, whether signed or digital.
  • Farmers must be notified that their data is being collected and about how the farm data will be disclosed and used. This notice must be provided in an easily located and readily accessible format.
  • Within the context of the agreement and retention policy, farmers should be able to retrieve their data for storage or use in other systems, with the exception of the data that has been made anonymous or aggregated and is no longer specifically identifiable.

The Farm Bureau principles document became the core of ADT. Todd Janzen, a lawyer from Indianapolis, Indiana, is the ADT administrator. A company that wants to get certified has to answer 10 questions derived from the Farm Bureau’s principles and provide reference for how those principles are represented in its farmer contracts. Janzen then “corrects the papers,” comparing the answers to the companies’ actual contracts to make sure they align with the principles.

Certification has to be renewed each year. “If a company changes their contract, they have to come back and get it approved. If changes are major, they have to re-certify,” Janzen says.

As of early November, 18 companies are certified and two more are in the process. The list includes John Deere, which was certified in February 2018.

Matthew Olson, John Deere product marketing manager for precision ag, says certification will ensure a high standard of transparency, simplicity and trust in all data contracts and services. “The privacy and security principles on which the ADT certification is founded apply to agronomic, land, farm management, machine and weather data,” he says.

Why wouldn’t you do this?

Fred Wall says FCC rebuilt AgExpert Field with ADT in mind, including a right-of-exit clause and assurance that FCC will share data only with whom the farmer specifies and for a specified length of time. “We see it as the producer’s choice to decide who they share their data with and when,” he says. “I don’t want producers surprised by anything FCC does.” As an extension of this, FCC now screens potential partners to make sure they’re also ADT certified.

“Why wouldn’t you go through this process?” Wall asks.

ADT is one of a kind in the world, and Janzen hopes to certify many more non-U.S. companies. “In discussions with people in Canada and other countries, they appreciate that American farmers set this up and they’re happy to just go through ADT rather than push for a similar system in their own countries,” Janzen says. “There is nothing inherently American about the principles. They are geared toward farmers everywhere.”