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Open data in the agricultural sector

Open data can transform the agriculture sector


The term agriculture, otherwise known as farming, refers to the process of producing food, feed, fibre, and other desired products that can be gained by cultivating certain plants and raising domesticated animals (livestock) and is the benchmark of the agriculture sector.

The agriculture sector is one of the most important sectors in an economy due to its impact and influence on other sectors and people's day-to-day life. There are several reasons why this sector is the backbone of an economy, for example, the agriculture sector:

  • provides food and fodder to feed people and livestock;
  • is a source of raw materials for production;
  • is a source of employment and livelihood to a large portion of the global population;
  • contributes to the national income and is a source of government income; and
  • is a basis for economic development - locally and nationally - and is a contributor to a country's overall economic development.

Due to the wide breadth of the agricultural sector's impact, it has a critical role in an economy at a local, regional, national, and even global level.

However, the agriculture sector is facing several challenges, such as climate change, food security, and population growth. To address and combat these challenges, the European Commission is allocating important research resources to the social challenge of food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research, and bioeconomy through the Horizon 2020 programme. Another method to support the agriculture sector through these challenges is embracing, successfully implementing, and combining digital technologies associated with Industry 4.0.


Agriculture and open data

The world is moving towards the fourth industrial revolution - otherwise known as Industry 4.0 - where computers will be enhanced with smart and autonomous systems that are fueled by data and machine learning. To elaborate, the concept Industry 4.0 refers to when factories and machines are augmented with wireless connectivity and sensors that are connected to a system that can visualize the entire production line and make decisions on its own.

The agriculture sector is already increasingly combing technologies, such as geolocation, soil and environmental conditions monitoring, Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT), to accurately measure the variations of variables in the crop field and improve the quantity and quality of agricultural products. To successfully implement and combine these technologies, the agriculture needs data.

Data - especially open data - will play a crucial role in helping the agriculture sector navigate and thrive through Industry 4.0, and has the potential to transform the agriculture sector and facilitate food security around the world. These datasets include weather data, data on seed genetics, data on environmental conditions, and soil data. To elaborate on how datasets can impact the agriculture sector, take the example of weather data. If weather data from weather records are made open, it will be possible for farmers to plan their planting season and increase their yield by reducing the risk of frost or drought damaging their crops. In addition, if weather data is made open, farmers can optimise their water irrigation system to prepare for rainy or dry days and not over water or neglect watering their crops.

There are already several ongoing initiatives around the world that focus on data and agriculture. For example, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) - an initiative that aims to shape the global discourse of open in agriculture. The CTA supports other institutions in their goal to promote sharing agriculture data, such as the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) - a project that was established in 2014 and promotes the proactive sharing of agriculture data to assist smallholder production and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: Zero hunger.

For more examples on agriculture datasets in Europe and use cases from across the world that exemplify the value of open agriculture data and aim to address the current and future challenges in agriculture, explore the European Data Portal! Aware of any open agriculture data use cases, or news and events that relate to how data can shape and support the agriculture sector, share them with us via mail, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to stay up to date!