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Data is still missing in the picture

What's missing from this DEFRA representation of the agrifood system? Answer: a computer that displays the insights gleaned from connecting and analysing data that comes from every action in this food system.

DEFRA's Acting Director of Agrifood, Alison Ismail, was quick to address the oversight at the highly successful Agribusiness 2019 conference organised by the AIC at the East of England Showground last week.

She's a strong advocate, alongside so many of the speakers, in data being able to drive new insights and innovations. But the oversight showcases a distinct lack of connection between the theory that data can unlock new insights for UK food and farming – and current practice.

Few doubt the value of data to farmers and the whole food system. It can unlock new insights and inform decision making in a way that has not been previously possible.

So the suggestion that is sometimes aired that data offers farmers a new 'rich crop' is misleading and potentially damaging. One person's individual data has little value.

The real value lies in being able to analyse and extract intelligence from large volumes of data - and to do so in the UK will require a change in attitudes and perceptions about sharing data.

Over-hyping the value of individual's data is potentially very damaging to the end goal of more data being shared more widely so that everyone can benefit.

The control and value of data must lie in the data providers' hands in order to encourage sharing and build confidence and trust.

Agrimetrics is concerned that the Ag Bill is proposing mandatory sharing in order to drive innovation and productivity across the food system.

This, no doubt, is a reaction to the concern at Government level that UK farmers and the industry are not extracting value from the vast amounts of data being generated across the food system in a way that our counterparts in Europe and the US are doing so effectively.

It is important that everyone in the UK industry works more collaboratively together to encourage data sharing and ensure that responsible data security measures are applied effectively.

We have a collective responsibility to avoid derailing a golden opportunity to grow productivity and profits for UK food and farming at such a very challenging time in our history.

Written by Debbie Beaton, Consultant for Agrimetrics
Artificial intelligence, data and robotics are hugely exciting. And being able to analyse data will drive the next agricultural revolution
Sir Peter Kendall, chairman of AHDB