A recent Harvard Business Review article discusses intellectual property (great publication, I highly recommend it), and how the US is lagging compared to the rest of the world in ensuring the benefits of its locally developed technology returns to its citizens and companies.
The pursuit of technology is a costly endeavor, and as such it requires legal protection. In agriculture, innovation improves the well-being of millions around the world. Intellectual Property Rights (“IPR’s”) in agriculture are not a novel concept; the first US agricultural patent was recorded in 1970 for potash.
The effects of intellectual property rights on agriculture span a variety of issues. For example, Do IPR’s stimulate research and development? Do they create a more efficient market environment or do they erect barriers to entry and allow for monopoly rent extraction?
I believe that we are at the nexus of an industry transformation in agriculture. A recent McKinsey & Company article noted that Precision Agriculture is positioned for double digit growth in the years to come.
Current advancements in ICT will create opportunities in the sector for improved productivity, efficiencies (econ lingo for less waste), and ultimately greater benefit on a private and social level. However, a question presents itself with the advent of many technologies in the precision ag space. Who has the right of ownership to the massive amounts of data that will be generated and monetized in the years to come?
The conversation is currently geared towards “selling” the farmer on the benefits of Precision Agriculture. Undoubtedly, current innovations will improve the farm and benefit the farmer. Nonetheless, we should also address how can we pool the collective knowledge passed down through generations with the aid of technology to address more serious issues; dwindling natural resources, limited fresh water, availability of fertile land, and exploding population growth.
By examining the current literature and surveying the precision ag space this post series will demonstrate the various approaches used to try and answer this question. Feel free to comment and participate. It is our responsibility to educate and create an environment conducive to open transfer of technology and knowledge to be able to establish sustainable, responsible, and profitable agribusiness ventures.