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High-tech U.S. farm machines harvest Big Data, reap privacy worries


By Karl Plume MOLINE, Illinois (Reuters) – Steps away from a replica of the revolutionary 1837 steel plow at tractor company John Deere’s headquarters sits a combine as big as a tank and packed with computer wizardry that harvests huge volumes of valuable data as it gathers crops. Now, at an unprecedented meeting on Thursday, the national independent farmers’ group the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) will try to hammer out guidelines with Deere and fellow industry heavyweights such as Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer – which together control nearly three-quarters of the U.S. corn seed market. “Virtually every company says it will never share, sell or use the data in a market-distorting way – but we would rather verify than trust,” farmer Brian Marshall of the AFBF told the U.S. House Committee on Small Business in February. While only around 14 percent of farmers use this kind of precision agriculture technology at the moment, its popularity is expected to soar over the coming years.

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