Opening the Value of Agricultural Data

Today the data economy is basically a b2b business. Companies collect and share personal data without our knowledge of what is being done with it and without creating an open network for value exchange. The biggest value collected by companies on their servers is data. Every day, millions of records about people, things, and places are gathered. Current database systems come with built-in authorization and security methods, limiting access to this data only to those who can prove they should have access to it.

What if we lived in a world where the innovations that could be created with this data weren’t limited solely to the platforms gathering it? Companies rarely perceive themselves as social agents of change, even though the connection between social progress and business success is increasingly clear. Moreover, consumers consider themselves to be concerned about environmental quality especially human impact on the natural environment, yet don’t know how to get more involved with groups, projects or businesses that promote sustainability!

At Harevester we beg the question: What if we change the business model of these companies and create a sharing economy around agricultural data? We will be working with companies whose business models encourage data sharing. If you are a part of such an organization, whether it’s a smart agriculture data collection company, an urban farm, media source providing industry coverage, an organization focused on policy making, or an accelerator in the space, let us know.

Why Now?

Currently, the entire world is undergoing what is known as a data revolution.We are seeing an unprecedented increase in the volume and types of data created — and the subsequent demand for it — due to the ongoing proliferation of new technologies including but not limited to data sensors, drones, robotics and automation, synthetic biology and genetics, satellite and image recognition, mobile computing, and blockchain.

Technology, data, and business innovation will allow cities to become the service organizations that citizens need. This data revolution is allowing governments, companies, and researchers to monitor progress and collectively drive social action, often with real-time, dynamic, disaggregated data. At Harvester we think that much work will need to be done in order to ensure that the data revolution is used to solve pressing issues regarding sustainable development and eventually in developing countries facing challenges. It is important to think of the revolution as a multistep process, beginning with building basic knowledge and awareness of the value of data. This is followed by a more specific focus on public-private partnerships, opportunities, and constraints regarding collection and utilization of data for evidence-based policy decisions.

Relevant, Real-Time Data:

By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. What if city planners had a smart way to alter smart agriculture to reduce carbon emissions, or actively redirect traffic to curb exhaust? Citizens have started to ask these types of questions. They want to use technology to receive better services, from easy and smooth meal delivery to protection from plants grown with potentially hazardous chemicals. This is changing the way cities collect, use and analyze data; Citizens want useful information in real-time, new models for interaction, and ways to become stakeholders. Cities need to deliver.

This is why we believe in powering an on-demand economy at Harvester. By facilitating smart housing and growing agriculture initiatives, smart location and distribution, and smart selling and consumption, we aim to be the first on demand aggregator of food tracking data, food services and information, and ordering. We enable content producers, food suppliers, food system designers, investors, key industry players, and food economy participants equal access to knowledge and resources, making the platform easily scalable. Harvester helps you build better products and make better decisions with location data combined with historical data, and gives user new ways to share. Open data layers can be used to create application architectures which can be pictured like this:

Listening to citizens needs can make cities more livable and healthier, lead to enhanced insights, save businesses money, increase the efficiency of the food chain supply system, and even potentially save lives. Take the story of the creation of the MEANS database for example. MEANS (Matching Excess and Needs for Stability) was created by a 20 year old, Maria Rose, who had experience working at her local food pantry. She noticed something frustrating: that the same people who who came to eat meals at the food bank when she was 14, and 18, we’re still there when she came home for breaks at 19. These individuals didn’t have the tools they needed to move forward and make progress against their poverty, putting all of their efforts into just staying afloat. Simultaneously, while the line of people to serve food to was frequently out the door, Maria noticed people were throwing away massive amounts of food from over-sized, now-expired donations. After having to fill an entire dumpster one afternoon with mac and cheese past its date, she had the stereotypical entrepreneur’s thought: “there has to be a better way to do this.” There is, and MEANS was born. MEANS is an online platform for food pantries and the donors who want to supply them. It’s an online database system for creating good in struggling communities.

MEANS firmly believes in connecting data to local food networks because one of the biggest perils of a food recovery network can be the potential for them not to communicate with each other. Real-time contextual information isn’t just used to save lives. Always-available, mobile-first tools provide citzens with a new way to directly engage with their cities, and at the same time provide cities with the data they need to create new services.

Transforming the Personal Data Ecosystem

We think that there are two key steps to efficiently meeting food related challenges and respecting the interests of individuals to the greatest possible extent.

One of the most important steps toward the goal of greater citizen engagement is that the citizens themselves are able to become involved in their cities. Citizens want to particpate in the process of developing these platforms in order to help guide the city on how to best suit their needs. Depending on the project, citizens can crowdsource information, collect data, help with project design or even physically help build applicaton programs or farms. Including citizens in these processes not only creates inclusivity and greater access, but also removes guess work that might otherwise be involved in the wide-scale projects collecting data.

First, we have to move the individual into the center of the personal data related ecosystem and give them back control over who is collecting and using data about them, how it is used and for what purpose. Market players have to give the individual their fair share of the monetization of their data. Personal data with the individual’s consent to use it for defined purposes represents a new asset class.

Secondly, we have to create standards with which market players will be able to collect, enrich, share and monetize the new asset class in an efficient and controlled way, always respecting the agreement with the individual and protecting their data. We see as well that in the future a vast amount of personal data will move to personal storage management systems where the individual has complete ownership and control over their data and the data is accessed by other parties only via permitted individual queries. However, a certain amount of personal data will remain in the storage systems of private and public organizations.

Because Harvester is an European project (with global ambitions down the road), it will be compliant from the start with a new regulative in EU that protects individuals — the General Data Protection Regulative (GDPR). We are embracing GDPR as it is one of the globally strictest privacy protections which enables individuals to reclaim their data. The individual is in the center. One controls access to their personal data with two essential instruments. The first is through the legally regulated consent to an organization to use ones personal data for a specific purpose. The second one goes a step further by using secure personal storage for data. In this case, an individual’s personal data is no longer held by others, but it is rather the individual himself who technically fully owns and controls the storage. The latter will be an important evolution in the period to come. In both cases, the individual will need important tools, such as data wallets or personal data collection and analysis tools.

Agrifood is the least digitized industry and a top 5 investment priority. Merchants such as accelerators, incubators, service apps, coworking spaces, media companies, and other agrifoodtech industry players are the key data users. They need data to understand what we as consumers and businesses want and, consequently, to use better information to inform us of their offerings. The data also enables them to design their products and services more effectively.

There will be multiple data markets created via the platform; We envision that they will typically evolve around specific regions and verticals. Our goal is to help urban agriculture to thrive and prosper by creating a network supplied with digital tools and that allows urban farmers the ability to improve brand awareness & knowledge to support the growth of the industry as a whole. Data markets will have the function to connect data owners, data users, and service providers with specific information of value and exchange and monetize data in a controlled and efficient way. With open data layers we need peer-to-peer solutions that would allow everyone to setup nodes to share data without altering it and with built in processing capabilites.

We at Harvester are not just introducing an application, we are introducing a philosophy of a nature and life in a technological world. We like to think that the basic architecture of system sharing its internal data could look like the diagram above, not far of from how the roots of a plant look. Where system nodes are internal to the data operator (they are the ones controlling/creating the data) and are allowed to alter the data, gateway nodes are designed to pass data from system nodes to external readonly nodes. Readonly nodes would then have capability to replicate from other readonly nodes or from gateways allowing for better load balancing. This will allow individuals the ability to share information without putting their identity at risk and to provide new mechanisms for reliable data sharing in ways similar to what they are currently doing for replication and reliability, but with very different reason behind.