How DataLinker streamlines agricultural technology connections

Information is the life-blood of today’s businesses and will enable the transformations occurring in the agriculture and food business sector. Historically, information has only been exchanged between businesses at the transactional level (such as shipping notices and invoices), while richer data that could differentiate products, demonstrate environmental compliance, and optimise business value has remained isolated in silos.

DataLinker is designed to give agricultural businesses (farmers, processors, input suppliers and advisers) the ability to access and combine data from multiple sources in flexible, and timely ways, without requiring many hours of skilled technical resource to carry out data exports and imports.

Integrating and effectively sharing data looms large for many businesses, so companies are investing in their own development and infrastructure, and are also finding the challenges: data standardisation, supporting different interfaces for each partner organisation, and time taken to negotiate data access agreements. DataLinker addresses these issues.

What is DataLinker?

DataLinker is a framework for agriculture and food businesses who wish to interchange data. In many ways it is analogous to the GS1 frameworks used to interchange shipping notice and invoice data, or the Ag Gateway framework used in grain supply space. DataLinker’s primary focus was to allow farmers to bring data from a variety of sources into the tools they use for decision making, but it can be equally beneficial to all companies in the sector.

DataLinker consists of four major components that work together:

  • Data exchange specifications (“schemas”) that standardise sets of data using the Farm Data Standards and modern internet protocols (developed collaboratively with the input of member companies);
  • A small central registry where companies can discover which organisations implement each specification and how these are accessed;
  • Standardised contract terms that can be used to reduce negotiating time and legal costs in the majority of data interchanges; and
  • Technical tools to support secure agreement of data access terms, approval of access, and (where necessary) farmer permission for individual farm data sets.

DataLinker is not a database, nor a central communications hub through which all data might pass.

All of the DataLinker specifications and framework components are based on internet standards, and companies are responsible for implementing the specifications in their own IT systems, although support is provided.

How does the commercial model work?

DataLinker Limited has been incorporated as a separate entity to operate the DataLinker registry and support the collaborative development of standardised API specifications for areas where its users direct. The board of directors comprises representatives from Beef+Lamb NZ, DairyNZ, MPI, and an independent chair appointed by DataLinker’s subscribing members. DataLinker Limited operates effectively as a not-for-profit to encourage adoption and benefits for the agricultural community.

There are no transaction fees.

Members pay a joining fee of $6,000 NZD (waived for New Zealand organisations prior to 31 May 2018), and an annual subscription of either $3,500 (for organisations either providing or consuming data), or $4,500 (for heavier users both providing and consuming data). These fees are analogous to membership of a standards organisation, supporting the operation of the registry and collaborative maintenance of specifications.