As ICT-enabled farming goes mainstream, farmers fear getting locked-in with their suppliers

In economics, a lock-in situation occurs when a customer of a product or service is unable to switch to another provider without incurring substantial switching costs. As data-driven farming models are taking off, farmers worry about the potential hurdles of combining and carrying farming and agronomic data from one provider to another, which would create a lock-in situation for them.

The dissemination of sensors in farm holdings has provided farmers with large agronomic data sets, ranging from crop yield statistics to information on moisture levels, soil chemistry or nutrients. However, the translation of such data into agronomic advice is hampered by the lack of data portability and interoperability, i.e. the ability to combine data from different suppliers of smart farming equipment and to retain access to historical data when switching to a new supplier.

Many agri-tech companies are incentivized to run closed value chains of precision farming equipment, enabling interoperability between products from the same brand only. Vendor lock-in in farming is exacerbated by the fact that software tends to be hard-paired to physical equipment, the latter representing huge investments for farmers.

To guard against captive commercial models and to make the most of their data, farmers can ask themselves the following questions prior to purchasing ICT-enabled farming equipment:

  • Am I the owner of the data generated when using the equipment?
  • What happens to the historical data if I switch to another supplier?
  • Can I send my data to third parties (e.g. agronomists or product advisors)?
  • Can I sell my data to potential buyers (e.g. commodity traders or chemical producers)?

Would you like to learn more on how farmers can prevent vendor lock-in? Then read the following interview with Jason Tatge, CEO of the data-aggregating platform Farmobile.

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