Friday, July 1, 2022

Project aims to simplify data sharing for FEPs

Overcoming the barriers preventing data sharing across different online systems is the goal of a new research project funded in part by the Government.

TANZ chair Chris Claridge says the project, funded in part by SFF Futures, will make the existing tools available to create online farm environmental plans more efficient. 

Overcoming the barriers preventing data sharing across different online systems is the goal of a new research project funded in part by the Government.

If successful, it will allow farmers and growers to collate and share this data by creating a digital solution for farm environmental plans (FEPs).

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) is contributing $493,500 to the $823,500 project, led by Trust Alliance New Zealand (TANZ).

Within the next year, the project aims to have completed their study across the country, to find ways to improve data sharing and streamline the process for farmers and growers. 

Rather than developing a specific tool to create digital FEPs, it will resolve the issues that prevent the plans being shared among different groups and organisations in NZ, TANZ chair Chris Claridge said.

“What we are doing is working with suppliers of these digital tools to work out more efficient ways of utilising the data,” Claridge said.

“It will make existing tools more efficient.”

TANZ will work with providers of digital FEPs behind the scenes to make the process more efficient and utilise data better to enable farmers to be able to better utilise their existing tools.

The project will get parties that use the data at its end point, such as local government and digital systems providers, to collaborate to work out how it can be not only more efficient but also resolve issues such as data security.

“This is so farmers are not using multiple systems that don’t necessarily efficiently talk to each other,” he said.

“Our key issue is: enter the data once, capture it, secure it, share it by permission. It’s about how do we work smarter here to reduce compliance for farmers because sitting at a computer writing data all day is not something a farmer should be doing.”

Claridge said TANZ will rely on Federated Farmers to help with farmer consultation.

Getting better efficiency from these systems when its creators have commercial interests was about finding common ground, of which there was plenty, he said.

Cellphone makers and mobile plan providers, for example, all use slightly different systems but operate in the same space.

“An iPhone still talks to a Samsung. We have different systems but we can still talk to each other,” he said.

“This is not the current case with digital farm services – at the moment, the iPhones can only talk to the iPhones and the Samsungs can only talk to the Samsungs.”

Waikato-based farm consultancy business Total Ag has just launched its own digital FEP for its clients. 

Director Rob Macnab applauded the project’s intent, saying making it easier for farmers to collate and share data was a laudable goal.

Total Ag’s online FEP was two years in the making and came from an overwhelming demand from farmers and the desire to streamline the process.

He said there are too many groups and companies working in silos in the FEP space and this project would hopefully remove some of that mindset.

“Nobody’s really coordinating the discussion between them,” Mcnab said.

Resolving the issue of duplicity among different systems will take “diplomacy that’s greater than solving the Ukraine war”.

This is because so many parties involved in the farm business – the meat or dairy processor or council – have different perspectives of looking at the same problem and often these entities have entrenched positions, particularly around IP and data privacy, he said.

“At the end of the day, farmers just want one thing that works for them,” he said.

“It’s overdue. This should have been done back when farm environmental planning was beginning to be discussed and put forward as a proposal as part of Fit for a Better World.”

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