Forget Fake News, Fake Data is Agriculture’s key concern: Digital security in contemporary farming

Alfred Gilbert
Tue, 4 Apr 2017
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It is no secret that farms are benefiting from the digital revolution. Farmers are seeing improvements in the efficiency and productivity of their agricultural practices, helping them to make best use of their land and resources. Big data capture and analysis is the future of farming, but with this new and bold future, comes equally new and dangerous security concerns.

According to FAO estimates, food production will need to increase by 70% to meet global levels of food demand in 2050. Accurate agricultural information and data is essential for achieving sustainability and security of food supply. Appropriate data analysis can help farmers fine tune practices and strategies to help maximise their outputs. Not only is data collection important for interpreting and learning from past events, but it is also vital for predicting future events, enabling stakeholders to intervene before events, processes, or negative behaviours are set in motion.

When thinking about big data on a global scale, there are further benefits to be noted. Big data as a tool for revealing patterns and processes requires large amounts of infrastructure and expertise that are too elaborate for many individual farmers. However, access to open data collected from larger farms and businesses, can be a useful resource in terms of education for smaller farms. Open data can transform the lives of rural populations, helping them refine and improve their agricultural practices and outputs. This can lead to the stimulation of local economies, whilst also helping with global protection against future food security challenges.

In line with the growing uptake of digital technology within agriculture, there is a pernicious cyber threat developing. Fake data.

It is well understood and recognised that access security in relation to digital technology is a huge concern. Un-solicited access and control of data and digital infrastructure can allow outside actors to alter farming practices and schedules, negatively effecting crop yields and farm productivity. Farms and technology providers have taken large steps in negating this threat through tightening security systems and accessibility controls.

One sub-set of this threat that is less developed, however, is the issue of data alteration and manipulation. Fake data can be used to alter databases and documents without anyone noticing. Hackers are able to alter data to provide farmers with false information about crop development, yield, growth, and other indicators of progression.


The issue in this lies with the longer term impact of fake data. Many of the decisions made in business and government are based on data that is assumed to be accurate and reliable. Unless changes to data are quickly noticed, longer term actions that are carried out over months and years will be unsustainable and inappropriate. This may lead to failed crops, food shortages, and at its most severe, famine.

Impacts to the agricultural sector will radiate throughout society, likely affecting economic, social and environmental stability. Many experts warn that by undermining the authenticity of data and removing our trust in it, you can potentially bring local and national economies to their knees.

There are therefore both huge opportunities and challenges to consider when thinking about digital technology and agri-business. Technology can help farms improve their productivity and efficiency, whilst also being a point of vulnerability. As farming becomes more mechanised and technologically reliant, companies and farms need to ensure that their growing digital infrastructure and systems are future-proofed against cybersecurity concerns.

Challenge Advisory aims to help farms across the globe gather and integrate huge amount of data in order to gain a panoramic view of their farm and practices. We use this data to assist farmers in making meaningful and timely operational decisions to help enhance their yields and profits. A key part of this advice and guidance is the implementation of appropriate security measures. To read more about how we achieve this, and our upcoming events in relation to this issue, explore the linked pages below.

This article is courtesy the Royal Air Force 100 Event

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