Will Farmers make money from data? We may need to lower the transaction cost.

(This post is cross posted from my blog at http://rjsteinert.github.io/blog/index.html#!2016-08-16/will-farmers-make-money-from-data.md)

I just listened to a talk with Jaron Lanier about his book "Who Owns The Future?" where he argues that to sustain the middle class that we'll need to either adopt socialism or that providing information to the giant computers needs to become a new kind of job in order for market economies to work. At 11:24 he summarizes the middle class struggle in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. By 16:40 he has stated his hypothesis of how putting a cost on information might sustain a middle class in a capitalist economy. While Lanier focuses on email users selling their inbox data, the same applies to farmers selling their log and IoT data.

For farmers, farmOS and Open Pipe Kit empowers farmers to own their data as opposed to having to give it away for free as they do with John Deere tractors and FarmLogs.com where they already pay a fee for use. This puts farmers in a position to sell their data. But how? To put things in perspective, imagine paying for an email service from Company X and selling your inbox data to Google. That is similar to paying for farmOS on Farmier and selling your data to Climate Hub. But we don't see people selling their email inbox, they are instead exchanging the data for email service with Google/Yahoo/etc.

I posit that the reason people don't sell their email inbox and instead opt for exchange of service is because the transaction cost of selling is too high. Negotiating and determining a fair market price with every email user is not something that seems worth either party's time. The same probably goes for exchange of farm data except in few academic exercises. In my mind, it seems like if the transaction cost of exchanging farm data was low enough, there would be win-win-win scenarios for farmers, buyers, and society. It would be something worth doing.

But how do we lower that transaction cost? I wonder if we could learn something from the currency exchanges and wallet services for Cryptocurrencies (http://coinbase.com is a good example). They allow you to store your digital asset and easily exchange it for other currencies. What do you think?

mikebrunt's picture

I have been doing research on what the Blockchain system might offer to farming.  There is a crypto-currency called "Friecoin"  which has been linked to Permaculture in some circles and their main web site is here.  Beyond that my main interest is in the overall title for Blockchain which is "The Internet Of Value" and of course it is decentralized and peer-to-peer.