After more than a year of intensive preparation, ILVO, together with AVEVE, Boerenbond, CRV, DGZ and Milcobel, launches a unique platform to share data in an advanced way within the Flemish agro food chain. The platform is called DjustConnect, a name that alludes to performance and efficiency. Ingenious are the control functions - built into the architecture and management - for the farmer. The farmer is the one who owns the data and decides whether, and with whom, it may be shared.
DjustConnect will be the ‘highway’ where you can exchange data in a smooth, regulated way. The sector now has a central fundamental tool to develop more secure and smarter applications. "Such apps deliver, for instance, administrative simplification, management support or technical advice. Easier sharing of data is a benefit to the farmers themselves and to companies throughout the chain," say the founding agricultural cooperatives.
From research project to sustainable private-public data platform
In 2018, the partners in the research project 'DataHub for Agrofood' took the first steps towards advanced data sharing. With almost €500,000 support from the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and with an even higher own investment by AVEVE, Boerenbond, CRV, DGZ and Milcobel, the digital architecture has now been established and IT provider Cegeka is engaged in the technical realization.
At this launch, the founding partners make it clear that DjustConnect is permanently anchored as a fully-fledged and lasting public-private body. The expansions, maintenance and permanent ILVO supervision are contained in a future plan that lasts much longer than the term of a research project.
Dashboard for the farmer: earning trust
The basic requirement for full data sharing is trust between the different parties. The structure of DjustConnect has a strong guarantee for this, which is based on an international code. At the start of 2018, on the initiative of COPA and CEMA, a code of conduct was drafted with guidelines for the use of agricultural data: The EU Code of Conduct on agricultural data sharing. In it, the farmer is unequivocally recognized as owner of the raw data. In Flanders the founding partners of DjustConnect this Code as guideline. It is translated as it were into a dashboard on each farmer's computer.
Specifically: The farmer receives requests (to share data) in which data users explain in plain language what they want to do with the data. Each time, the farmers decides with a simple click whether to share that data in that specific case, or not. Only the 'ticked' data can be on the highway. The farmer retains the overview via the dashboard. The farmer’s property rights are central, permanent and technologically insured.
High-performance, safe, transparent, neutral
The effectiveness of DjustConnect is included in the 'one-to-many data share 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 connect action gives data users (potential) access to data from different vendors. This simplifies the technical aspect of the data-sharing.
The data exchange platform possesses powerful security and high-level performance. There are watertight controls to ensure that all players respect the rules of the game in a transparent way.
The central role of the public research institution ILVO guarantees the neutrality of DjustConnect. "That's important for users, suppliers and owners,” according to the founders.
From farmers, for farmers, and access for everyone (who follows the rules)
A data-sharing platform is nothing without data. The founding members AVEVE, Boerenbond, CRV, DGZ and Milcobel are already committed to making their members (farmers) excited about looking with an open mind at the data-sharing requests they receive. The first connecting companies and the first apps running on DjustConnect are situated in the dairy sector. From there, a certain critical mass is arising quickly, which attracts many other companies and farmers.
Of course, the ambition is to quickly expand into other sectors. Stephanie Van Weyenberg (ILVO): "All data users from the agro-food sector are welcome. The only condition is that they respect the rules of the game. ILVO will ensure that no one is excluded from participation."
Who builds? Who makes apps?
The actual construction is assigned to the Flemish IT company Cegeka through a European tender procedure.
Rob Gielen (Cegeka): "Cegeka has, in addition to some other sectors, a strategic focus on the Agri & Food sector. We have a strong belief in the potential of data platforms such as DjustConnect, because they provide leverage for more innovation in the sector. That’s something we want to support. DjustConnect is a textbook example, also for other sectors, given the balance between all parties involved, the strict safety and strong focus on the experience of the end user."
The actual development of applications based on the data mergers is deliberately not done by DjustConnect. In that way, the platform remains a neutral service for other, commercial players in the data-sharing story at all times. But it is clear that DjustConnect will become a major catalyst for data innovation in Flanders. The combination of existing data leads to clever innovative solutions. The first applications (apps) are already expected in the spring of 2020.
Companies who are interested to bridge the gap between their data and DjustConnect are encouraged to contact the ILVO coordinator, Stephanie Van Weyenberg.
Stephanie Van Weyenberg, ILVO Coordinator for DjustConnect: + 32 478436826, Stephanie.Vanweyenberg@ilvo.vlaanderen.be
For the press: Greet Riebbels, ILVO communicatie: + 32 486260014, Greet.Riebbels@Ilvo.Vlaanderen.be