Ownership of farm data – are farmers aware of their rights


Agriculture has advanced to a stage where farm equipment supplied by prominent service providers carry sensors that record and upload data reflecting developments on each spot of the farmers’ fields. Some of the suppliers have used such developments to venture into the information business, offering to assist farmers to collect farm data, analyse it and avail the output to farmers and other users at a price.

The major question is: who is the rightful owner of such data? With increasing amounts of data being created about farming and by farmers, the issue of data ownership has drawn a lot of debate, particularly in the era
of open data.

This is one of the topical issues that was discussed in an event organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in collaboration with its partners on the GODAN Action project and the Agricultural Data Interest Group (IGAD) in November in Gaborone, Botswana.

It has often been found that actors with better access to resources are not only capable of gathering data but tend to understand the legal environment surrounding that data. As a result, it is easier for well-resourced actors to benefit from datadriven insights rather than the farmers from whom the data was generated.

Reality, however, suggests that data originating from farmers as well as their farms is owned by farmers, and they have the right to control who gets access to that data. As such, farmers can prevent their data from being shared with other actors or included in larger data collections.