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 solve 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 is partnering with the UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems on a 1-year project supported by a SSHRC Connection grant under the Research Data Management Capacity Building Initiative.

Project deliverables

  • Deliver an in-depth curriculum on ethical data governance targeted to researchers and policymakers through a 4-workshop series that includes the current state of data governance regulation and best practice examples from around the world.
  • Co-develop a Toolkit for Ethical Data Management in Agricultural Research, including multilingual data governance primers for farmers and templates for data governance frameworks.
  • Deliver interactive workshops at farmer conferences to discuss data justice and data governance and resources to help farmers navigate data privacy issues.

Workshop Series, May - June 2023

How do we benefit from big data while protecting data ownership and farmer privacy? This workshop series offers an in-depth curriculum to answer this question. Four workshops will bring together experts from around the world to discuss the current state of data governance regulation and best practices from Canada and around the world, including farmer and Indigenous-led data governance initiatives.
Targeted to researchers, policymakers and industry leaders, the four workshops will inform, inspire and help guide the development of data governance frameworks tailored to the needs of the agricultural sector.
We highly recommend that participants join all four sessions. The first three sessions will be recorded, the Indigenous data sovereignty: Beyond OCAP session will only be offered live.
  1. Global agricultural data governance: Lessons from international initiatives – May 10, 9:00-10:30am PDT (12:00-1:30pm EDT)
  2. Agricultural data governance in Canada – May 24, 9:00-10:30am PDT (12:00-1:30pm EDT)
  3. Community-led data governance and farmer-controlled data – June 7, 9:00-10:30am PDT (12:00-1:30pm EDT)
  4. Indigenous data sovereignty: Beyond OCAP – June 14, 9:00-10:30am PDT (12:00-1:30pm EDT)

There is no cost to participate; pre-registration is required.

Webinar Recordings & Resources

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:

Resources & More

Check out the workshop series MURAL Board here highlighting resources shared across the sessions, key takeaway points from each presenter, additional Q & A, participant feedback and more!

Advisory Committee

Isabelle Piot-Lepetit, Research Director, Sustainability & Digitization, INRAE (Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement), France

Zoe Mangin, Communication officer and project coordinator, INRAE, France

Gregory Rekken, Team Lead, Mitigation and Soil Health, BC Ministry of Agriculture

Sean Smukler, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm, UBC – Vancouver

John Janmaat, Professor, Economics, UBC- Okanagan 

Jonathon McIntyre, Chief Technology Officer at i-Open Technologies Group of Companies

Kelly Bronson, Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa

Kevin Cussen, Product Lead, LiteFarm project, UBC

Dana James, Post-doctoral research, UBC

Project Team

Principal Investigator: Dr. Hannah Wittman, Professor, University of British Columbia (UBC) – Vancouver
Graduate Researcher: Sarah-Louise Ruder, UBC – Vancouver
Collaborator: Shauna MacKinnon, BC Agricultural Climate Adaptation Research Network
Research Assistant: Delanie Austin

Funding Acknowledgement

This project is funded by a Connections Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. These grants support events and outreach activities geared toward short-term, targeted knowledge mobilization initiatives.