Ethical Data Governance

Why is data governance important?

The agriculture sector is facing big challenges. Rising input costs, labour shortages and climate change are just a few of the issues facing farmers. There are an ever-growing number of digital solutions being proposed to help address these challenges – from big data climate forecasts and robotic tractors to satellite imaging and precision agriculture drones.
Ever-larger capabilities to collect, store and analyze data offers researchers, policymakers and farmers new opportunities to harness the power of big data. Data can help guide on-farm decision making, adapt to climate change, advance research and better target government support programs.
But issues of data governance and data justice are unresolved and contested among farmers, researchers and governments, limiting the effective use of data.
Protecting data ownership and privacy for farmers can be difficult, but there are examples of ethical approaches to data governance we can learn and build from.

What we are doing

To increase the capacity for ethical data governance in the agriculture sector, BC ACARN partnered with the researchers at UBC and beyond to co-develop resources to help farmers and others working with agricultural data.

Toolkit for ethical data governance in agriculture

A free and open-access collection of resources available in multiple languages:

  • Infographic and short explainer video
  • Discussion guide
  • Glossary
  • Workshop series, recordings, and summary report
  • 3 data governance templates

Toolkit for Ethical Data Governance in Agriculture

A free and open-access collection of resources available in multiple languages 

Infographic + Video

The infographic and video summarize findings from research conducted about data governance in agriculture by Dr. Sarah-Louise Ruder and Dr. Hannah Wittman at the University of British Columbia. 

Illustration by Annalee Kornelsen for Drawing Change

This video explains the infographic and provides additional information and examples. 


There are six other resources in the toolkit:

Discussion Guide

Guided reflection and discussion questions to learn about agricultural data governance. Includes suggested activities and recommended resources. 

Highlighted terms are in the glossary.

Workshop Series Summary Report

Key lessons, recordings, and resources from a 4-part workshop series, featuring farmer, Indigenous, government, and researcher perspectives. 

Highlighted terms are in the glossary.

Agriculturalists' Bill of Data Rights

This document proposes a set of rights that should be upheld when a farmer's data is collected, stored, used, and shared.

Developed by the OpenTEAM Tech Working Group for OpenTEAM projects, but can be used and adapted by others.


Definitions and agricultural examples for more than 80 common terms related to data governance in agriculture. Includes recommended resources. 

Developed in collaboration with the OpenTEAM Tech Working Group.

Oath of Care

A tool to assist in building trust for collaboration and sharing agricultural data, especially when working with farmers and land stewards.

Developed by the OpenTEAM Tech Working Group for OpenTEAM projects, but can be used and adapted by others. 

Data Hosting and Storage Agreement

This document provides a template for data hosting and storage agreements.

Developed by the OpenTEAM Tech Working Group for OpenTEAM projects, but can be used and adapted by others.

Workshop Recordings

See Workshop Series Summary Report above for more information and resources

Toolkit Launch

Introducing the Toolkit for Ethical Data Governance in Agriculture

This session gave an overview of the toolkit, including its resources, background, and partners. Audience members from around the world had a chance to engage in a Q&A with the project team.


  • Dr. Sarah-Louise Ruder, UBC Vancouver & University of Ottawa.
  • Dr. Hannah Wittman, UBC Vancouver.
  • Anna Lynton, OpenTeam.
  • Shauna MacKinnon, BC ACARN.

Workshop #1

Global agricultural data governance: Lessons from international initiatives

This session brings together global expertise in data governance to share lessons learned in agricultural data governance from India, France and Columbia with an emphasis on ethical and mutually beneficial data sharing arrangements with farmers.


  • Isabelle Piot-Lepetoit, Research Director, Sustainability & Digitization, INRAE (Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement), France
  • Luc Lapointe, CEO and Founder, TheBC.lab, Columbia
  • Vineet Singh, Vice President of Products, Digital Green, India

Session Moderator: 

  • Gregory Rekken, Team Lead, Mitigation & Soil Health, British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food Canada

Workshop #2

Agricultural data governance in Canada

This session takes a focused look at the policy and governance landscape for agricultural data in Canada and BC with two experts in the field. Both presenters bring experience working with farmers and agricultural data. They discuss the challenges and opportunities of agricultural data governance in Canada, that current state of governance and legislation, and possible ethical and mutually beneficial models.


Session Moderator: 

  • Serena Black, Science Research Specialist, Industrial Forestry Service

Workshop #3

Community-led data governance and farmer-controlled data

This webinar highlights farmer-centered options for agricultural data governance and practical advice for setting up ethical data governance frameworks. Presenters discuss the rights and concerns of farmers and farm workers regarding agricultural data collection and data use by third parties as well as how producers are envisioning and enacting agricultural data governance.


  • Greg Austic, Co-Founder, & Digital Coffee Shop
  • Dorn Cox, Founder, FarmOS and Farm Hack Community

Session Moderator: 

Workshop #4

Indigenous data sovereignty: Beyond OCAP

Indigenous communities have been leading the charge in ensuring information and data collected from their communities stays in their control. The First Nations principles of ownership, control, access, and possession – more commonly known as OCAP – assert that First Nations have control over data collection processes, and that they own and control how this information can be used. But that is just the start. This session discusses Indigenous research and data sovereignty frameworks beyond OCAP and highlights the responsibilities of settlers collecting agricultural data on Indigenous territories.


  • Dr. Tabitha Robin Martens, Associate Professor, Land & Food Systems, UBC
  • Dr. Robyn Rowe, Post-Doctoral fellow, Queen's University, executive member of the International Indigenous Data Sovereignty Interest Group with the Research Data Alliance and the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA)

Session Moderator:

Project Leads

Dr. Hannah Wittman, UBC Vancouver

Shauna MacKinnon, BC ACARN

Dr. Sarah-Louise Ruder, UBC Vancouver & University of Ottawa

Project Advisory Group

Dr. Kelly Bronson, University of Ottawa

Dr. Dana James, UBC Vancouver

Dr. John Janmaat, UBC Okanagan

Zoé Mangin, Institut national de la recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement (INRAE) 

Jonathon McIntyre, Agrilyze & i-Open

Dr. Isabelle Piot-Lepetit, INRAE

Gregory Rekken, British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food

Dr. Sean Smukler, UBC Vancouver

Project Assistants

Catalina Garcia and Delanie Austin

Project Funding

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada                          [Connection Grant – Outreach]

UBC Public Scholars Initiative