Farmers should get more value out of data they collect, NFU says

Farmers must be able to benefit from the data they collect in order to increase productivity, the NFU said earlier this week at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Data is an important tool in pinpointing areas of production and supply that can become more efficient and enabling farming businesses to get the most out of their resources.

However, speaking at the ‘Mapping the Future’ event, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser Helen Ferrier highlighted that although farmers generate the data themselves, they are likely to be missing out on a lot of the value.

Dr Ferrier said: “Geospatial information is being generated in much greater volume and has become much more accessible in recent years. Data about farms is being collected using a range of methods from satellites and planes to drones, tractors and mobile phones, right down to sensors in the soil or in animals.

“Data can provide information on many areas of farming including weather, pests and diseases, and supply and demand, and can pinpoint ways for farmers to be more productive and competitive which in turn will benefit the wider economy, the environment and society.

“Yet data is useless until it has been analysed, and it only reaches its potential value when the analysis is shared.

“Although data sharing throws up some tricky questions about ownership and privacy which need addressing, feedback along the supply chain is vital if the full benefits of the fourth industrial revolution are to be realised.”

Other speakers on the ‘Mapping the Future’ panel were:

  • Prof Iain Stewart of Plymouth University and President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society 
  • Nigel Clifford CEO of Ordnance Survey 
  • Prof Paul Longley of the University College London
  • Javier de la Torre Founder of geospatial company, CARTO

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