The initiative plans to disrupt food production across the developing world, with the aim of making it more productive, efficient and resilient – all through the power of information.
It brings together thousands of experts, from crop scientists to computer programmers to collect, process and analyze vast amounts of data on crops, weather, soils and more, with the aim of producing some of the most precise and reliable recommendations for farmers, governments and policymakers in developing countries.
Research Director at CIAT, Andy Jarvis said at the launch of the initiative: “It’s time for smallholder farmers to stop looking at the sky and praying for rain.”
“With enough data and enough analysts we’ll be able to say if the rains will be late or on-time. We’ll be able to say which crops to plant, when to plant and how much fertilizer or water to use. We’ll be able to anticipate shocks, reduce risks and maximize opportunities for profitable, sustainable agriculture.” Jarvis said.
Benefits of the big data revolution have yet to reach the vast majority of smallholders and policymakers in developing countries.
The spread of smartphones and internet connectivity to many rural areas means many farmers are now better able to generate, share and receive important data to help guide agricultural decisions and investments.
“There’s no reason for precision farming to be the preserve of the fortunate few any more,” Jarvis stated.
“While the data revolution has been a boon for farmers in richer countries, it needs to be democratized so that the world’s 500 million smallholders can benefit too – after all, they produce 70% of the world’s food.”
The initiative brings together CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in partnership with tech giants IBM and Amazon among a list of high-level partners.
Other partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the Universities of Penn State and Michigan State, Kings College London, and PepsiCo, which has pioneered the use of big data to manage supply chains for consumer goods.