Data is becoming one of the largest assets on Kyle Bridgeforth’s family farm in Alabama.
Bridgeforth Farms grows cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and canola on more than 10,000 acres near Huntsville. The family uses data to help them make better decisions on the farm – to conserve water, build up soil health and manage their finances.
Data also helps tell their story.
The Bridgeforths’ ability to accurately track, trace and share what they do on the farm made a partnership with Target possible. Target purchases raw cotton from the fifth-generation Black-owned and operated farm for its 100% Black-owned or designed line of goods.
“Every single step, from the time the cotton was planted to the time the apparel pieces hit the retail shelf, was tracked so Target could prove its claim,” Bridgeforth says. “It wouldn’t have been possible without very accurate data.”
Bridgeforth sees exciting opportunities for farmers and general society as demand for farm data expands. Data helps paint the picture of soil and water stewardship. It’s the foundation of proving and improving climate-smart agriculture and productivity — both critical for addressing issues like food insecurity, biodiversity loss and climate change.
With these opportunities, though, come concerns. Who will own and have access to farm data? How will they use it? Will farmers receive compensation for the data they generate? How will privacy and intellectual property be protected?
To help address these questions, Bridgeforth joined a team of farmers convened by Solutions from the Land, a nonprofit certified to contribute to conversations that shape policy development at the United Nations level. The UN aims to achieve 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), more than half of which depend on success in agriculture.
“Solutions from the Land recognizes that data goes hand-in-hand with climate-smart agriculture and that this is a topic on which farmers need to have their voices heard,” says Lois Wright Morton, a specialty crop grower, board member of Solutions from the Land and co-chair of the data team. “We wanted to be able to contribute guidance on farm data, from farmers’ perspectives.”
Bridgeforth will present the farmer-developed report, “Data Policy Guidance on Farm Data: Strengthening Collection, Analysis and Use of Agriculture and Food System Data for SDG Attainment,” at a side event during the 51st plenary session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS 51) in Rome next week. Up for adoption at CFS 51 are draft CFS Policy Recommendations on strengthening collection and use of Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) data and related analysis tools to improve decision-making.
“If farmers, whether large or small scale, are the ones generating data, we want them to be able to participate in the ag data marketplace,” Bridgeforth says. “Principles and standards still need to be lined out. This document is a great first step. I’m looking forward to everyone having access to this document and using it as a template as negotiations start and international leaders make decisions.”
Highlights from the report include:
- The need to recognize farm data as intellectual property of farmers and to maintain farmers’ ability to voluntarily participate in the ag data marketplace.
- The size neutrality of data. Any farmer from anywhere in the world with access to a cellphone and internet signal, including large, mid-size and small holders, should be considered valuable contributors and users of data.
- The need to innovate and collaborate to seek solutions that strengthen and help agricultural and forestry enterprises thrive, protect and enhance the environment, and provide multiple benefits in support of sustainability and SDGs.
Farmers who contributed to the report include:
- Lois Wright Morton, Ohio specialty crop grower, data team co-chair
- Fred Yoder, Ohio row-crop farmer, data team co-chair
- Jocelyn Anderson, California almond and walnut grower
- Kyle Bridgeforth, Alabama row-crop farmer
- Brad Doyle, Arkansas soybean, rice, wheat and grass hay farmer
- Ray Gaesser, Iowa row-crop farmer
- A.G. Kawamura, California produce grower
- Amelia Kent, Louisiana beef producer
- Verity Ulibarri, New Mexico crop and livestock farmer
For the full report:
Find additional farmer-contributor quotes and the 14 recommendations in this Solutions from the Land blog post. For more information, contact lead writer Lois Wright Morton, email@example.com, or Kyle Bridgeforth, firstname.lastname@example.org.