Today, the Global Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative, of which CABI is a partner, released new research in collaboration with the Open Data Institute (ODI): How can we improve agriculture, food and nutrition with open data? Launched at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, the research shows how open data enables more effective decision making in a wide range of contexts, creates innovation and promotes transparency that changes the way organisations work. This helps smallholder farmers who need access to accurate, accessible data on weather and market information to plan their crops and achieve the best yield and price. Consumers are also increasingly demanding accurate information to make food choices and for a healthy diet.
GODAN aims to promote a better understanding of how open data can help solve global challenges in delivering food security and better nutrition. Future systems based on open data have the potential to deliver sustainably produced food by using land more effectively, reduce waste and tackle pests and disease. Access to weather and market data is crucial for farmers making decisions on what and when to plant.
The global food system struggles under the combined pressures of a growing population, climate uncertainty and volatile market forces. As the world’s population grows to around 9 billion by 2050, global demand for food, feed and fibre is predicted to nearly double, with growing numbers of people at risk of hunger and malnutrition and unprecedented demands on land and environment. At the same time increased unpredictability of weather patterns will make it difficult to take sound decisions on crops and cultivation.
Open data is a powerful tool already solving real world problems in agriculture and nutrition, from drought, pests and diseases, to food security and food safety. The power of using the huge amounts of data generated every day has yet to be fully understood, though the potential is enormous. The crucially the data needs to be available and accessible to everyone in a usable form if it is to provide practical solutions for policymakers, farmers and consumers.
Martin Parr, GODAN Programme Manager, said: “The challenges facing the world’s food resource are likely to grow and innovative solutions that harness the power of technology will have a pivotal role in finding solutions. The data revolution in agriculture and nutrition is now underway and the GODAN network grown to more than 120 active partners, all of whom are committed to promoting increased access to open data in the sector.”
The research identifies examples from across the world where open data is already making a difference:
1 Helping farmers forecast with weather apps: AWhere
Information such on changing temperatures, humidity and rainfall are crucial for the success of a crop. In the developing world many farmers use mobile phones as their main communication tool and one group in Ghana (Esoko), worked with commercial company AWhere to develop an SMS messaging and voicemail app. This provides farmers with rich weather data accessible at low cost through their mobile phones to help them decide when and how much to plant.
2 Saving $3.6m in drought damage with a climate-smart tool: International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) Colombia
In the past five years emerging climate change impacts have driven down yields of irrigated rice in Colombia from around 6 tons per hectare to 5 tons. International research centre, CIAT, used open data to identify the complex issues causing this. This led to the development of a new climate-smart agriculture decision-making tool which advises farmers when to sow their rice crops to get the best harvest. In 2014 this saved farmers in Colombia around $3.6 million.
3 Improving food safety and consumer choice: LIVES
In California open data helps consumers choose restaurants with the best hygiene ratings to avoid the risk of food-related illness. Local Inspector Value-Entry Specification (LIVES) is a collaboration between San Francisco, Code for America, Socrata and Yelp and publishes open data on restaurant inspection ratings.
Next steps for open data
GODAN now seeks examples of real-world challenges that open data can be used to solve, as well as case studies showing how the use of open data has already made a difference to build understanding of the scope for addressing practical problems in future.
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