Platform for Big Data in Agriculture
The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture used big data to solve agricultural development problems faster, better, and at greater scale. In 2021, the Platform completed its fifth and final year of building CGIAR’s crosscutting digital capabilities, partnerships, and innovation strategy in digital agriculture.
The Big Data Platform was guided by the conviction that data standards, tools, open science infrastructure, digital partnerships, technical communities of practice, and applied digital innovation can build powerful capabilities for accelerating impact in agricultural research for development.
In 2021, the Platform team continued contributing to CGIAR’s digital capabilities, innovations, and partnerships for impact, while also engaging in the design of a new CGIAR research portfolio and organization.
In 2021, the Big Data Platform completed the development and final delivery of the CGIAR Open and FAIR Data Assets Policy.
The Big Data Platform conducted a consultative process to formalize Open and Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable data in support of a mature, data science-driven CGIAR. In 2021, this process resulted in the development and final delivery of the CGIAR Open and FAIR Data Assets Policy.
In 2021, the Platform finalized a digital strategy that builds on foundational work with CGIAR data and helps identify more unified analytics approaches, both for CGIAR and the broader sector. This research became an important resource to inform the design of a new crosscutting Digital and Data unit within CGIAR.
The Big Data Platform’s activities and achievements will be embedded into CGIAR work going forward. Throughout 2021, Platform team members led Task Teams and Initiative Design Teams, helping mainstream digital methods, tools, and strategy into the new CGIAR research portfolio. An external evaluation of the Platform showed that more than 60% of respondents found the Platform relevant; its products, analytical tools, and activities added value to their work and addressed users’ needs. CGIAR hired its first Global Director for Digital and Data, who will build teams and the action agenda to advance the Platform’s achievements in support of the CGIAR 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy.
The Big Data Platform’s Communities of Practice grew to more than 6,500 members in 2021, meeting a growing demand for CGIAR engagement.
The Big Data in Agriculture Platform was organized into three Modules: Organize, Convene, and Inspire. These Modules continued to support each other and the mission to digitally enable CGIAR and its partners in 2021.
To help researchers adhere to the Open and FAIR Data Assets Policy, the Organize Module developed the FAIRscribe workflow in 2021, enabling easy annotation to render any digital asset FAIR and publish it to a desired repository. The Module team continued to develop GARDIAN, CGIAR’s flagship data harvester, and related tools and workflows. GARDIAN allows researchers to not only find agricultural data, but also to fulfill its value, working collaboratively to leverage shared analytical pipelines developed using its analytic workbench, CG Labs.
In 2021, GARDIAN enabled the discovery of about 8,000 CGIAR publications and 550 CGIAR datasets. Other enhancements include an improved user interface with enhanced search and query, analytics, and data visualization. GARDIAN has added data from IFPRI’s CELL5M, providing the capability for crosscutting spatial analyses and fine-grain visualization of farming systems and populations across sub-Saharan Africa.
The Big Data Platform also offered workshops and webinars, and led a One CGIAR transition task team related to CGIAR research data.
As part of the Convene module, the Platform expanded and deepened CGIAR partnerships, methods, and standards in digital agriculture. The Platform’s technical Communities of Practice grew to 6,500 members and continued to develop digital methods and innovations in agricultural research for development.
In 2021, the Platform furthered its technical collaboration with the Alphabet company X to access new big data capabilities in super computing, spatial analysis, and sensor technology deployment. This collaboration will codevelop high-throughput phenotyping technologies and standards, with the ultimate goal of transferring these capabilities to mobile phones suitable for deployment in resource-constrained breeding environments.
The Platform was instrumental in helping create the Global Coalition for Digital Food Systems Innovation, a coalition for action linked to the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit. This coalition brought together influential partners from public, private, and nonprofit spheres who are committed to responsible digital innovation in food systems. The Global Coalition will ensure data and digital technologies are used to their fullest potential to drive public good climate, biodiversity, nutrition, and development outcomes through food systems transformation.
In 2021, the Big Data Platform’s Inspire Challenge, its digital innovation process, presented cumulative synthesis results from four grant cycles (21 total awards) and an evaluation of the Theory of Change. This evaluation explored how innovation strategy and management can be used to target and foster more evidence around the uptake of digital innovations in agricultural research for development.
Projects awarded in 2020 continued implementation in 2021, but no new projects were awarded in 2021 as the Platform wound down. Both stakeholders and external evaluators validated the Challenge as an impactful and valuable digital innovation grant program and an important value-add to CGIAR research delivery.
Highlights of Inspire Challenge projects achieved in 2021
The project PlantVillage Nuru played a key role in responding to the 2020 locust swarms in East Africa by adapting its groundbreaking, AI-informed approach to pest and disease monitoring. In 2021, the project was granted US$500,000 to continue providing hyper-local, AI-driven advice to millions of farmers. The funding will also support new efforts in tree planting, drought-tolerant crop planting, and conservation agriculture. Other gifts will be matched one to one up to a total of US$2 million over the next two years.
XPRIZE awarded the project US$100,000 for enabling carbon removal. Nuru is currently functional with more than eight crop diseases offline and more than 150 crop diseases online. It diagnoses cassava diseases with two times more accuracy than trained extension workers and has been downloaded more than 5,000 times by users on all continents.
Hungry Cities leveraged high-frequency data on the metropolitan Nairobi food system to get fresh fruit and vegetables (FFV) to the people who needed them the most during the COVID-19 pandemic. After identifying barriers to the consumption of nutritious foods for low-income populations in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2021 the project acquired additional funding to conduct pilot experiments to test interventions.
The project also developed a retail data app that has been deployed to more than 12,000 retailers and has approximately 45,000 users per month. Analysis has begun on three rounds of consumer data collection.
Integrating data for small-scale fisheries
This project team has developed one of the most sophisticated data collection systems for small-scale fisheries in the world. In 2021, the project leveraged US$180,000 in additional funding to finance the ongoing operations and development of the PeskAAS digital monitoring system. PeskAAS has tracked 80,000 fishing trips, amounting to more than 1.4 million kilometers traveled and more than 57,000 fishing hours.