With precision agriculture and digital platforms exponentially increasing the amount of data generated by agricultural operations from planting seeds to feeding animals, a new voluntary code of practice aims to regularise access to and use of this data.  The code, which is endorsed by the European Commission, aims to “set transparent principles, clarify responsibilities and create trust among partners”.

The joint EU Code of Conduct on agricultural data sharing has been drawn up by a coalition of nine EU agri-food chain associations, including the European seed, fertiliser and crop protection bodies (ESA, Fertilisers Europe and ECPA); the feed trade body Fefac and farmers and co-operatives umbrella Copa Cogeca.

 The Code promotes the benefits of sharing data; explores contractual relations; and provides guidance on the use of agricultural data, particularly the rights to access and use the data. It sets out key guidelines and checklists for operators to follow, plus case studies and the current legal framework.

Crucially, the Code recognises the need to grant the data originator (i.e. the party who has either created/collected the data or commissioned someone to do it) a leading role in controlling the access to and use of data from their business, and that they should benefit from sharing the data with any partner that wishes to use their data.

The guidelines underline that the right to determine who can access and use the data is attributed to the data originator. This would mean that the rights on data produced on the farm or during farming operations is attributed to the farmer and may be used exclusively by him.

“I welcome the EU Code of conduct on agricultural data sharing initiated by the stakeholders of the agro-food sector,” comments EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan. “As Europe is moving towards a more modern and more sustainable CAP, technological solutions will be more important than ever, giving precision agriculture and data-driven solutions a crucial role to play.”

Digital economy and society commissioner Mariya Gabriel adds:  “As we move towards completing the European data economy by making more data available and flow freely, I am happy to see the agri-food sector joining forces to tackle an important bottleneck on the journey towards digital agriculture”.