This document describes the motivation behind forming the Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA), data-related challenges that farmer’s face today, how OADA will address those challenges, and how farmers will benefit from OADA. OADA will create a secure data ecosystem that enables data
security, privacy and interoperability for the entire agriculture industry. OADA will achieve this through an open standards software effort to establish secure data exchange protocols. This open software development approach is how Internet, network and web standards have succeeded in providing secure, scalable solutions for businesses and consumers alike.
Starting with a common, secure, and interoperable Application Program Interface (API) specification, an environment can be created in which farmers have complete freedom to choose best-in-class products from precision ag vendors with confidence in the data security and privacy and no danger of vendor data lock-in. Farmer participation in the newly-enabled OADA-compliant precision ag services market will drive innovation across the agriculture industry to enable the next generation of sustainable agriculture.
In order to enable this next stage in production agriculture productivity, these three issues have to be resolved. Past attempts at solving data sharing and compatibility have revolved around creating monolithic standards that are licensed commercially and selectively. Farmers require an open solution that works with existing standards, adheres to clear privacy and security policies, and doesn’t require farmers to pay to access their own data. This is not a unique set of challenges. Other industries have faced a similar stage in their evolution, including financial services, healthcare, and the Internet. In all cases, a distributed, rather than centralized, network model emerged as best for the end users.
What OADA is
With the mission to ensure farmers have full data access, security and privacy, OADA:
- will operate with a farmer-focused approach through a central guiding principle that each farmer owns data generated or entered by the farmer, their employees or by machines performing activities on their farm,
- will develop open reference implementations of data storage and transfer mechanisms with security and privacy protocols,
- will provide a forum for technical community discussion,
- will be led according to the processes of open standards projects that have built much of the Internet’s networking, security, web and data standards with multiple university, individual and corporations participating (often while competing in the marketplace). Examples include the Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and The Apache Software Foundation, (which supports over 100 projects).
- will direct any financial contributions to a not-for-profit foundation whose purpose will be to enable open source projects in agriculture in service of the OADA mission.
What OADA is not
It is important to also specify what OADA does not intend to do. OADA:
- will not produce or sell commercial products,
- will not be a provider of cloud storage or services,
- will not be a political lobbying organization,
- and will not endorse or oppose products or services beyond providing software tests that can be used to validate OADA functional support.
The OADA Approach to Interoperability
While each commercial vendor can implement their own OADA-compliant tools and services using technologies familiar to their organization, the existence of an open reference implementation that contains a verification test suite will provide a framework by which the industry can work
How OADA Supports Security & Farmer Privacy
OADA will develop authentication and security protocols that will support third-party verification of provider security and privacy practices. OADA security and privacy working groups will collaborate with stakeholder groups in defining the technical capabilities that can represent the range of business security and privacy practices that are desired by the broad community. The farmer will be able to use OADA services with a full understanding of different service provider security and privacy levels which are clearly and simply represented through their OADA-compliant tools.
Example Use Case
Use Case with Current Industry State
Figure 1: Current state of the ag data industry from a farmer’s point of view. Note that some important data (in red) never makes it back to the farmer at all.
The way this use case generally occurs today begins with Frank telling Andy those dreams of having all that data aren’t going to happen. Frank then spends a painstaking amount of time simply gathering whatever information he can. Exporting yield data for every field from his desktop computer or OEM-specific cloud service, looking up past PDF files that have soil test information, zipping all these files up, and sending them to Andy. Frank doesn’t have the as-applied maps for fertilizer, because the fertilizer co-op never sent them. Frank looks back at his seed order receipts, and types up a spreadsheet with field names and seed varieties.
Andy then calls up the local seed salesman for some of the unfamiliar varieties to get seeding recommendations. Frank doesn’t have the outlines for his irrigators saved anywhere, so Andy pulls up Google Earth, draws the approximate circles, and saves them to a KML file on his personal computer. After some significant data massaging, Andy gets all this imported into his existing software, makes a seed prescription, exports a file formatted for Frank’s planter monitor, and emails it to Frank. Frank saves the file on his computer with prescriptions from other people for other fields, and eventually puts them on a USB stick to import into his planter monitor.
Use Case with OADA Interoperability
Figure 2: The farmer’s clouds can work together through the common OADA REST API to enable trusted agents to manage the farmer’s data for him. Should the farmer become unhappy with any given cloud provider, he can easily transfer his data to another cloud provider.
The OADA example workflow for the prescription map is one where Frank has an account with an OADA-compliant cloud provider. His precision ag data is there, his third-party applicator’s precision ag records for his fields are there, and the KML for his irrigator pivot outline is there. Some of Frank’s precision ag data first goes into a different OADA-compliant cloud due to device compatibility on one of his tractors, but Frank has configured his main cloud to just sync up those files automatically via those service’s OADA-compliant capabilities (provided by the OADA REST API framework).
It is the ag-based metadata that distinguishes this approach from a standard cloud-based file store. That basic layer will allow OADA to extend and support a wide array of ag-specific features that simply are not possible with standard file storage, such as opening files directly in client software without the need to manually specify any information about them.