Since big data arrived in agriculture a few years ago, I have watched companies struggle with how to address farmers’ concerns with ag data privacy, security, and control. Some companies have started with a clean sheet of paper and drafted agreements that reflect what they actually do. Others have taken a short cut by cutting and pasting agreements from other industries. The result is that contracts for ag data collection, use and sharing are inconsistent and often miss the point—to communicate the company’s intentions with users.


The past few months I have been working with the Ag Data Transparent organization to try to bring some order and consistency to this chaos. I am very proud to announce that we have created a “Model” Ag Data Use Agreement (the “Model Agreement”). The Model Agreement is free to download to any company that wants to improve its online data contracts.

The Model Agreement is built with the understanding that “ag data” should have a life cycle. Ag data is well defined, and there is a recognition that ownership begins with the originator. After uploading ag data to the tech provider, the Model Agreement explains the tech provider’s rights to use data internally, and the tech provider’s rights to allow sharing externally. Finally, the Model Agreement explains what happens to ag data when the originator no longer has use for it, or seeks to transfer to another ag tech provider.

The Model Agreement is not a one-size-fits-all agreement. It does not replace a privacy policy, which serves its own purpose of explaining provider protections for personal information. The Model Agreement will not work for all ag tech providers or all ag tech products. In most instances, it needs to be customized by companies to address specifics.

The Model Agreement is in harmony with Ag Data Core Principles and it does address each of the 10 Questions asked in the Ag Data Transparent certification. Adoption does not guarantee certification, but it will make the process much simpler.

Big data analytics hold a lot of promise for farmers, but confusion should not be part of the package. Let’s hope that many ag tech providers embrace the Model Agreement, or, at the very least, use it as a starting point for creating their own ag data use agreement.

You can download a copy at the Ag Data Transparent website: Model Ag Data Use Agreement.