Who owns the data – the farmers have spoken!

Fish farmers maintain the right to data ownership, a Seafood Innovation Cluster managed survey shows when asking them to share their insight related to data ownership. Further, a pragmatic view on sharing and value creation is shared by the industry, seeing the data as a value.

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Data is currently characterised as ‘the world’s most valuable resource’ or ‘the oil of the digital era’ (European Commission, 2017). The salmon farmers generate large amounts of highly valuable data daily. Considering the obvious value of production data from active production sites, the question of data ownership and data access to develop new services, insights and products must be addressed.

In a recent survey we asked 45 salmon farming companies of all sizes in Norway to share their insight related to data ownership and access to develop new products or services. The survey was well received providing us with interesting responses. The European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) conducted an identical survey with their own stakeholders.

Data as capital
The survey shows that the aquaculture companies agree that theirs is the right to determine who has access to the data generated by their companies.  Further, there is a strong and unison feeling that portability of data, the ability to transfer data to another platform if there is a change in supplier. Thinking ahead, the fish farmers are willing to pay more for a system that allows such mobility.

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Big Data to achieve sustainability
Tentatively embracing digitalisation of the whole industry, 90% of the salmon producers indicate willingness to share some of the information with public authorities and scientists, allowing the society in general to benefit from privately acquired data. This points the way to a promising development where the use of Big data may benefit both sustainability of salmon farming industry, as well as the society in general. One can imagine the fish farmers sharing environmental- and meteorological data with research institutions and meteorological institutions contributing to better coastal current- and weather forecast, supporting management systems and better understanding of our coastal waters. Even contributing as distributed network for coastal surveillance, supporting research on climate change and ocean acidification.

Differences - Agriculture and Fish-farming
In general, comparing the answers from the two industries there are clear similarities as both consider having the full right over the access to the data their produce an absolute. The Norwegian producers and European agricultural companies agree on the importance of data portability to new platforms, but the European producers seem to consider that portability should not be at a premium as a feature or service, in contrast to some Norwegian salmon companies. The answers from the fish farmers seems to indicate a mindset where data holds value, represented by willingness to share data against payment or as a price reduction when purchasing new equipment or services. On the sharing of farmer data with the community (public sector and researchers), EIP-AGRI group trends more towards scepticism than the fish farmers.

The findings indicate that the food industries in Europe, both agri and aqua, have sufficiently similar interests in terms of data ownership, sharing and portability to support the tentative cooperation one sees across the two important industries, building sustainability, animal welfare and more robust food systems.