As the phrase “data is the new oil” becomes more and more popular, there is also much uncertainty about the impact of data governance and sharing models. There is a variety of sharing models that have different degrees of openness, transparency, division of added-value, or potential for market power distribution. Data will not only be the core asset, but also the core lubricant that will define (beyond the economic models) the socioeconomic models around every single industry vertical. For agriculture, finding fair and acceptable ways to support data sharing among the various stakeholders will also be crucial in ensuring that the benefits of the digital revolution in agriculture reach everyone involved.

The Workshop on Data Sharing in Agriculture entitled “Data Sharing: Ensuring fair sharing of digitization benefits in agriculture” took place in Bratislava, April 4-5, 2017 and was organized by the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI). It brought together a select group of about 80 stakeholder representatives who brainstormed on existing or potential arrangements, frameworks, and pathways to enable effective, fair and valuable access to (and reuse of) agricultural data. Agroknow was there and our CEO, Nikos Manouselis gave a keynote speech at the event and facilitated the interactive sessions during the event.

Here are the three key issues that have been raised:

● Which are the right questions to ask, before sharing private (industry or personal) information via a specific platform or service?
● Can we develop a list of recommended good practices to enable and facilitate fair data sharing in agriculture?
● What is the role of the European Commission in order for the data economy in agriculture to effectively unfold, benefiting all the stakeholders involved equally and fairly?

The main conclusion from the Bratislava workshop is that this is the time for both the public and private sector in Europe to take action. As new markets and business models emerge in the sector, ensuring that the key stakeholders are aware of the issues and that appropriate (and enough but not too much) regulation is in place, will help European stakeholders be part of the new picture – rather than striving to survive new types of monopolies. This need has been strongly communicated in the workshop and was also made evident by the interest and involvement of the participating stakeholders. A data-oriented dialogue needs to be systematically kicked off, using the variety of mechanisms and channels that the sector stakeholders use (such as EIP AGRI and GODAN ) but also the Commission’s implementation plan for the Digital Single Market . The agriculture sector is crucial to the European economy, as food will always need to be produced in order to feed the growing global population. It is fewer data aware compared to other sectors (such as the automotive or energy ones) but its key stakeholders have real consciousness of the importance of this discussion.

Considering that technology is rapidly changing, therefore affecting the discussion about data sharing and governance, one might say that many of the issues covered in the workshop are a moving target. This could be true, as with the introduction of new technologies (such as wearable technologies and commercially-deployed virtual reality applications) the dialogue will need to be repeated and extended. It is crucial that the Commission establishes and takes advantage of permanent consultation mechanisms with the key stakeholders, rather than one-off consultation activities that have a given time frame. The data ownership, sharing and governance issues will become more and more relevant in the years to come.

There were many lessons learnt during the workshop as well as some thoughts about how this important dialogue may be continued and enriched.  This workshop also serves as a call to action to the key stakeholders, in the light of the upcoming transformation of the sector. Continuing the dialogue is going to be both timely and important. But it needs to be taken to the ground, owned by the stakeholders of the sector and facilitated (or even coordinated) by the European Commission.

For more information, you can read the full report, for which our CEO Nikos Manouselis was one of the key authors. The full report is available here.