Farm Open Data

Agriculture is one of a growing number of industries leveraging open standards to create APIs that help farmers more effectively gather, analyze and share data.  Modern production agriculture methodologies have the ability to increase crop yields and reduce environmental impacts.  However today, it is common for farmers to become inundated by the sheer amount of data generated by various information sources and systems.  This data includes images, geodata, logs, reports and charts, which come from a disparate array of information sources and systems.

In order to solve this problem, Farmers require interoperable hardware and software solutions which synthesize data to make it readily useful – and properly secure.  The most logical approach toward a scalable solution for farmers would be to create a secure, cloud-based set of services or tools.

The Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA) was created in order to develop standards to improve agricultural data gathering processes and analysis. Aaron Ault, a farmer and leader of the Purdue University’s Open Ag Technology Group, is taking the project lead at OADA. In an article on Farm Industry News, Ault explained that the group’s mission is to help farmers increase yield from the systems they have on their farms by helping gather data from disparate systems, provide farmers with control over what happens with their data, and maximize data privacy.

Ault is himself an Indiana farmer who says he’s concerned about how his data will be used. One of his primary goals is to help ensure that farmers can own and control their own information.  “We’re going to work to develop protocols,” Ault says. “The farmer owns the data collected on his farm by his equipment and his employees.”

Instead of creating or selling a product, OADA will serve as a technical forum for open discussion and collaboration. They are going to build upon the processes for open standards that helped shape the Internet’s networking, security, web and data standards. OADA will help develop standards for APIs that companies can utilize to provide open sharing. OADA has established a set of guiding Principles, which can be viewed here.

“The big distinction here is that this is a true open standards project,” said Greg Smirin of Climate Corporation, one of the early partners of OADA. “They really can take input from all comers and actually build solutions that can begin to be implemented by consultants, companies, individuals. The narrow mission is to create technology underpinnings and the mechanism for safe data exchange with sufficient security and privacy policies.”

When farmers can readily harness the array of intelligence that help them better manage operations, they can more effectively tailor decisions and approaches to improve outcomes – for themselves and the people they serve.  Toward this goal, open standards will play a critical role in the future of farming.