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Raising awareness of data on the farm

The AgriDISCRETE project is raising farmers’ awareness of data by co-designing communication materials that explain what data on the farm is and how it’s shared.

The increasing use of digital technologies in Irish farming, such as farm management apps, sensors, drones and GPS-enabled machinery, is increasing the amount of data generated, collected and shared about farms.

A recent survey from Farm Business Skillnet found that 40% of Irish farmers would be happy for their data to be collected in exchange for a reduction in the cost of on-farm technology; however, 44% felt that more information or assurances are needed before they would be comfortable sharing their data.

One way to address concerns around farm data is to increase farmer awareness of how data is generated, used and shared, to better equip farmers to make decisions on data sharing and control. That’s why, as part of the AgriDISCRETE project, researchers from Teagasc, the Walton Institute and the RIKON group decided to use a co-design approach to develop communication materials that provide information about data sharing to Irish farmers.

The co-design approach sees stakeholders participate directly in the design process of the task at hand. A social science-based perspective is extremely valuable to a co-design approach, as methodologies such as focus groups and semi-structured interviews create an iterative and collaborative process where the design is continually refined and developed with stakeholders during each step.

Championing stakeholder input

The AgriDISCRETE project team held a series of participatory workshops in 2020 and 2021. A wide variety of agricultural stakeholders took part, including farmer and forester representative organisations, agritech and data companies, advisory services, research institutions, skills development organisations and those employed in tech roles.

Insights from these workshops can be seen in Figure 1 (left), which reflects 10 key themes that represent current user needs and gaps in data governance practices in Irish agriculture.

The 10 identified themes were presented back to key agricultural stakeholders in an additional co-design workshop. They discussed what would be necessary to include in communication materials in order to address some of the identified user needs and gaps in farm data awareness.

Members of the project team utilised the feedback from this co-design workshop to create an initial draft of the communication materials. This content was then reviewed further with agricultural stakeholders during one-to-one phone consultations. Working with a graphic designer, members of the project team developed the visual representation of this content. This takes the form of a printed two-sided A4 infographic flyer (the front page of which can be seen above), and a one-minute animated video that outlines the data journey on and off the farm.

Once the imagery was drafted, agricultural stakeholders were again consulted to evaluate the accuracy and clarity of the messaging in the infographic, and further feedback was supplied to the graphic designer.

While these materials on their own won’t address all of the issues emerging in data governance, they can be used to empower farmers to start a conversation about data and learn more about how data is collected and shared on their farm, ultimately helping them to benefit from their farm data.  

Area Theme Design considerations for
communication materials

Lack of understanding/awareness of where data goes

Becomes theme of infographic and video

Increasing awareness of
data possibilities

Include content highlighting types of data on the farm and usage examples

Responsibilities and best practices

Include link to web page with resources including good practice information

Lack of clarity on end use of data

Include content showing examples of end use of data

Fear of data being used against farmers

Include link to web page with resources including EU Code of conduct on agricultural data sharing

Level of digital/technological comfort

Avoid technological jargon; target it to farmers with low digital comfort levels

Increased value of digitalised farm data

Include content describing how farm data is valuable

Explicit understanding of benefits

Include content listing potential benefits of farm data

Opportunities for communication

Design as a flyer that can be distributed and discussed in knowledge sharing settings (e.g. farming discussion groups)

Sustainability opportunities

Include content highlighting data contributing to farm sustainability

Figure 1. Areas of farmer user needs and gaps regarding data awareness in Irish agricultural practice, and subsequent design considerations for communication materials.

TResearch Spring 2022

To view the animation and full infographic (front and back) visit teagasc.ie/agridiscrete


The materials developed through this project are based on research supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under grant number 19/R/539.


This work is a collaboration between Teagasc, the Walton Institute at Waterford Institute of Technology (Paul Malone and Kieran Sullivan), and the RIKON group at Waterford Institute of Technology (Pat Lynch and Lorna Bailey).


Claire Brown
Postdoctoral Researcher
Agrifood Business and Spatial Analysis, Teagasc, Athenry, Co. Galway.

Áine Regan
Research Officer
Agrifood Business and Spatial Analysis, Teagasc, Athenry, Co. Galway.