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Farm Data - the devil in the details

You own your farm – but who owns your farm data?

The rise of data utilisation for commercial purposes in farming is well under way. Farm data is a valuable asset class for farmers and land owners.

What does ownership of data mean?

Being the owner of the farm data means the farmer can:

· use the farm data in any way they see fit; and

· sell the farm data to someone else if they wish to.

Farmers mostly rely on service providers to collect, store, manipulate, convert, and analyse their farm data. Soil sampling, herd data, animal data, weather information, crop and vegetation data. The vast majority of farmers do not (and have no interest in) manage the utilisation of the data from paddock to plate themselves. They rely on specialist 3rd party service providers who have the experience, equipment and analytical tools to work with the data.

The service providers use their skills to produce a further dataset, being the reports or analysis of the underlying farm data. This data, because it is produced by the service provider, is owned by the service provider, and is generally licenced to the farmer on certain conditions.

This means the farmers and service providers need to take care in setting up their commercial relationship to establish and understand their respective rights to the data they produce.

The value of the data is both in the micro – for the farm, but also in aggregate.

From the farmers point of view, they will want to:

· own the farm data, and control the distribution of the farm data at all times; and

· the famer has a right to use the reports/analysis

The service provider will want to ensure:

· the service provider owns the data and intellectual property that they create; and

· if applicable, they have an ongoing right to

The National Farmers Federation has released their “Farm Data Code” governing the management of farm data.

Moin Morris Schaefer supports the principles outlined in the Farm Data Code.

The legal documentation needs to put the intellectual property rights structures in place which meet the long term needs of the farmer and the service provider.

The service provider will own reports and analysis that they create for the farmer. however, in paying for those reports and analysis, the farmer (generally) will obtain a perpetual right to use and exploit those reports and analysis as they see fit. This is what they pay for.

The data which the report or analysis considers, belongs to the farmer.

Issues for Service Providers to consider

1. Do I retain ownership of all the intellectual property my company I have created in my reports?

2. What are my rights to retain and use farmer’s raw data for my business development or research purposes?

3. Does my company comply with the NFF Farm Data Code?

Questions to ask your data service provider

If you have a transaction where your farm data is being used, you should ask the service provider:

4. Am I the owner of the farm data?

5. How do I access this farm data?

6. Can I ask your company to delete the farm data if I want to?

7. Does your company comply with the NFF Farm Data Code?

Contact a member of Agrilaw team to discuss how to safeguard your farm data.

This article was authored by Cameron Cowley, Special Counsel, and Georgina Lamond, Solicitor.


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