Unpacking Data-Driven Agriculture


Unpacking Data-Driven Agriculture

As CGIAR holds the Big Data in Agriculture Convention in Kenya this week, the question of data, big data and open data in agriculture is yet again rejuvenated. The link between farming and data has never been stronger than now.

There are many efforts driving the data agenda in agriculture, which include FAO, GODAN, CGIAR, USAID programs, and many others.

Data-driven agriculture

But what is data-driven agriculture? And what does it mean for smallholder farmers? Perhaps the infographic by Grameen Foundation (for USAID Feed the Future) summarizes the issues (click on image to download)

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Infographic: Data-driven Agriculture                                                                                         ©USAID

The modern farmer (called digital farmer) is depicted with a number of data sources – such as the mobile phone, drones, satellite data, field sensors, APIs for service providers, extension agents and other service providers. Essentially, these combine both on-farm and off-farm generated data which either consumed or produced by the farmer. All this data needs to be centrally stored or aggregated to be meaningful.

In a related study, Grameen Foundation conducted a landscape assessment on the use of big data to support smallholder farmers, the starting point was the use of farmer profiles. Through these profiles and with relevant Apps farmers access crop modeling data, rainfall data and soil information amongst many other data services.

Data-driven agriculture: opportunities

Similarly, GODAN partners produced a white paper which gave an overview of the huge opportunities and challenges of data-driven agriculture for smallholder farmers. The opportunities for farmers include the usage of data for different agri-food systems, in

  1. Planning
  2. Monitoring and assessment
  3. Event management and intervention
  4. Autonomous actions
  5. Optimization
  6. Forecasting
  7. Tracking and tracing
  8. Negotiating and market access

While there are inherent advantages in data access for farmers, there are in-turn data challenges for farmers. The most noted one was the different data streams – off farm and on farm data. The paper identifies four data streams - localized data, imported data, exported data and ancillary data. The challenges were enumerated as,

  • Access challenges
  • Usefulness of data
  • Affordability
  • Applicability
  • Appropriation
  • Effective use of data

Citation: Maru A, Berne D, De Beer J et al. Digital and Data-Driven Agriculture: Harnessing the Power of Data for Smallholders [version 1; not peer reviewed]. F1000Research 2018, 7:525 (http://dx.doi.org/10.7490/f1000research.1115402.1)

What about farmers rights to data?

GODAN and its partners held an online consultation that looked at ethical, legal and policy aspects of open data affecting smallholder farmers. The e-consultation established (common views) that farmers are poised to benefit from the data-driven agriculture. However, the were some caveats, such as

  • Farmers should have the right to own, control and monetize their own data, in cases were their data is consumed by third parties, they should be able to participate in the decision-making processes. Prior informed consent for the use of their data and benefits emanating from the sharing of data should be explained.
  • Regarding policy issues, participants of that consultation alluded to the value of openness and that open policies should safeguard farmers’ rights and also encourage appropriate exploitation of the gathered data.

For a complete view of the discussion review this page 

GODAN also organized a webinar related to farmers’ rights and data driven agriculture, and you can re-listen to the webinar below

Success stories for data driven agriculture

The following story mostly appears in many blogs where farmers benefited from data- driven agriculture:-

Aligning needs with solutions: Data-driven agricultural innovation for Vietnam’s farmers .

CIAT Case Study: Data Driven Agronomy

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