From dirt to data and from soil to security: Fortifying the second green revolution


From dirt to data and from soil to security: 
Fortifying the second green revolution

Data protection and cyber security in Agri & Food

Technology-fueled transformation is rapidly changing the agri-food landscape into a data-driven and complex ecosystem. To keep up, the agribusiness and food industry will have to broaden its horizon on data security and cyber risk to harvest the fruits of the second green revolution.

Chantal Rademaker de Ridder - 1 May 2017

The agriculture and food sector continues to evolve

The first green revolution, that took place after World War II, transformed the agriculture by introducing new methods and techniques of farming. Including the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains and the distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.1

The second revolution, of which we are currently on the verge, will be driven not by new techniques but rather by new technology. It will likely be catalyzed by the Internet of Things (IoT) and grounded in the use of data derived from these hyper connected technologies. Enabling farmers and agri-food companies to make more effective, sustainable and strategic decisions that increase productivity, food safety, and shareholder value with reduced impacts on the environment.

From manipulating the growing environment to produce low-potassium lettuce to attaching sensors to cows to identify possibly sick animals, there is little question that the second green revolution holds the potential for remarkable results.2

With that promise, it also brings new challenges when it comes to data protection and cyber security.

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Agri-food is becoming more vulnerable to security breaches

Growing digital requirements and technological developments (such as 3D printing, robotics, wireless sensors, bioinformatics and smart farming)3 are transforming the agri-food sector into a data-driven and complex ecosystem that is increasingly dependent on information technology (IT) in their primary processes. These data platforms, business management systems and new technologies can be vulnerable to breakdown, abuse and misuse.

In today’s always-on digital economy almost 100% availability of systems and resources is required—throughout the entire agri-food chain. As such a successful cyberattack or security breach can have major impact. Risks extend far beyond theft and fraud to include loss of competitive advantage due to stolen intellectual property, loss of customer or business partner trust, and overall damage to an organization’s reputation and brand. Under the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that comes into force on the 25th of May 2018, important data breaches could even lead to fines of up to €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover.

Changing the game on data security and cyber risk

The cyberthreat landscape continues to evolve, with increasingly determined and sophisticated attackers. The question is how to manage the elevated risk of a data breach or cyberattack so the agri-food sector can continue to realize the value generated by technology and digital?

Organizations will have to move far beyond a “secure the perimeter” mentality and begin incorporating cyber risk thinking throughout the entire supply chain—taking a long-term view of what it means to be secure.

As cyber incidents and their associated costs continue to rise, there’s a growing realization that becoming impenetrably secure is impossible in today’s environment. It is almost inevitable that safeguards will sometimes fail. Managing data protection and cyber risk is not a one-time solution. It is an ongoing journey— for information security leaders and business decision-makers alike—to take meaningful steps to change the game on data security and cyber risk.

Data protection and cyber risk management is an enterprise-wide concept that encompasses the IT-centric discipline of cybersecurity as well as a broad set of business risks that have strategic, operational, and regulatory implications. Effective cyber risk management focuses on assessing threats, vulnerabilities, and their potential impact on the broader organization. Ultimately, data protection and cyber risk management is inextricably linked to an organization’s ability to conduct business effectively.

Toward a more secure, vigilant, and resilient organization

Because you can’t prevent all data protection and cyber incidents, organizations need to be secure, vigilant, and resilient. With many organizations today already breached by cyberattackers—and with many unaware of the breaches—realistically assessing your organization’s changing risk profile becomes critical, to help determine what levels and types of cyber risk are acceptable. Through the lens of what’s most important to your organization, businesses today should invest in cost-justified security controls to protect their most important assets, while also gaining more insight into threats and responding more effectively to reduce their impact.

Adopting this secure, vigilant and resilient approach to data protection and cyber risk is a key step in fortifying the second green revolution, and help transform agri-food organizations into a place where risk powers performance.

10 tips to becoming a more secure, vigilant, and resilient organization

  1. Take action before experiencing breaches or continuity problems
  2. Identify your crown jewels and focus on securing the heart of the business
  3. Protect your data just like your resources
  4. Perform a Privacy Impact Assessment to identify key data privacy and GDPR risks
  5. Security starts at the top: Put a senior executive at the helm
  6. Vigilance depends on insights: Detect, plot, and translate the cyberthreat landscape
  7. Resilience requires constant improvement: Think ahead and make practice a priority
  8. Generate momentum by launching priority projects that can deliver early “wins”
  9. Create an optimal governance structure for organizing data and cyber security
  10. Security reaches beyond your organization: Include partners, suppliers, and vendors


Read more:

Deloitte has been widely recognized as a market leader, including these recent independent analyst reports:

Deloitte is five times winner of The Global CyberLympics hacking challenge. An initiative of the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) and is supported by the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT). The purpose of the CyberLympics is to improve the level of cyber security and cooperation between countries.

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More information on data protection and cyber security in agri-food?

For more information, please visit: or contact Chantal Rademaker de Ridder at +31 88 288 6002 or via


1 Sarkar, A. et al. (2014). Proteomics potential and its contribution toward sustainable agriculture.
In N. Benkeblia (Ed.), Agroecology, Ecosystems, and Sustainability (pp. 151–180). Boca Raton: CRC Press.

2 Kobie, N. (2015). The internet of food: Why your steak might have come from a connected cow. Guardian, August 5, 2015, production.

Wilde, S. de et al. (2016). The future of technology in agriculture. The Hague: STT Netherlands Study
Centre for Technology Trends.

4 Poppe, K. et al. (2015). A European perspective on the economics of big data. Farm Policy Journal,
Vol. 12(1), pp. 11-19.

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