Original article published on ilvo.vlaanderen.be (Dutch).
After a year of intensive preparation, ILVO is finally launching its unique SHARING platform for advanced data sharing in the Flemish agri-food chain, in cooperation with AVEVE, Boerenbond, CRV, DGZ and Milcobel. The platform, called DjustConnect, offers a high level of performance and efficiency. Farmers can benefit from the high-end architecture and various integrated monitoring tools, while also remaining the owners of their data, with full control over much or how little they share.
DjustConnect offers a fast track for exchanging data in a smooth and compliant manner. The agri-food industry now has a central, basic tool that can be used to develop more targeted, smarter applications. “These apps help us, for example, to simplify paperwork, provide management support or give technical advice. Easier data sharing will benefit both farmers and companies throughout the chain,” the founding agricultural cooperatives say.
From research project to sustainable private-public data platform
In 2018, the founders of the ‘Data Hub for Agro-Food’ research project took the first steps towards advanced data sharing. Almost €500,000 in support from the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and an even higher investment for AVEVE, Boerenbond, CRV, DGZ and Milcobel were used to define the digital architecture. IT provider Cegeka is now working on the technical implementation.
When it was launched, the founding partners clarified that DjustConnect would be firmly established as a permanent fully-fledged, public-private body. Expansions, maintenance and permanent supervision by ILVO are included in the long-term plan, which far exceeds the duration of the research project.
The farmer's dashboard: earning trust
Data sharing requires mutual trust between the different parties. DjustConnect’s structure delivers a strong guarantee based on an international code. In early 2018, a code of conduct was drawn up at the initiative of organizations including COPA and CEMA, with guidelines for the use of agricultural data: the EU Code of Conduct on Agricultural Data Sharing. In this code of conduct, the farmer is recognized as the owner of the raw data. In Flanders, the founders of DjustConnect have used this code as a guideline to create a dashboard that every farmer can use.
How does it work? The farmer receives requests to share data in which the data users clearly explain what they want to do with the data. The farmer decides with a simple click whether they want to share their data or not. Only ‘ticked’ data will be shared. The farmer can always check the overview on their dashboard. Finally, the farmer’s ownership of the data is guaranteed thanks to a central and permanent location, empowered by technology.
Efficient, safe, transparent, neutral
One of DjustConnect’s efficient features is its ‘one-to-many data sharing system’. On the one hand, data suppliers share their data via a one-time connection with many potential users. On the other hand, the one-time connection activity gives data users potential access to data from different suppliers. This makes data sharing easier from a technical perspective.
The data exchange platform offers a high degree of security and performance. It includes comprehensive checks to ensure that all players respect the rules of the game.
DjustConnect’s impartial character is guaranteed by the central role of ILVO, a public research institute. “This is essential for the users, suppliers and owners,” its founders explain.
By farmers, for farmers
A data-sharing platform is pointless without data. Founding members AVEVE, Boerenbond, CRV, DGZ and Milcobel are committed to encouraging their members to keep an open mind when it comes to the data-sharing requests they receive. The first apps running on DjustConnect were used by dairy farms, who were also the first ‘connecting’ companies. This quickly built critical mass, attracting many other companies and farmers.
Obviously, the developers hope that DjustConnect will expand to other sectors soon. Stephanie Van Weyenberg (ILVO): “Everyone in the agri-food sector is welcome to use our tool. The only condition is that they have to respect the rules of the game. ILVO will ensure that everyone can participate.”
Who built the platform? And who develops the apps?
The construction of the infrastructure was assigned to IT company Cegeka by means of a European tender procedure.
Cegeka’s Rob Gielen explains: “Cegeka has a strategic focus on the agricultural and food sector, in addition to a number of other sectors. We strongly believe in the potential of data platforms such as DjustConnect, because they effectively boost innovation. At Cegeka we are happy to support this initiative. DjustConnect is a textbook example for other industries as well, because of the balance between all the parties involved, its strict security and its clear focus on the end-user experience.”
The actual development of applications based on data fusion is deliberately not done by DjustConnect. This way, the platform will at all times remain a neutral service for commercial players in the data sharing story. Nevertheless, we know that DjustConnect will be an important catalyst for data innovation in Flanders. The combination of existing data leads to smart innovative solutions. The first applications are expected to be launched in the spring of 2020.