The ultimate goal of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture (BIG DATA) is to harness the capabilities of big data to accelerate and enhance the impact of international agricultural research. This platform aims to provide global leadership in organizing open data, convening partners to develop innovative ideas, and demonstrating the power of big data analytics through inspiring projects.


In 2018, BIG DATA launched GARDIAN, which has made datasets, publications, and crop varieties across all Centers and genebanks of the CGIAR easily accessible and FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) for the first time.


The Platform’s Communities of Practice (CoP) reached several hundred members in 2018. When the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation came into effect, the Platform and the CGIAR System Organization developed an online course to help agriculture development researchers understand its wide-ranging implications for legal and ethical use of research data.


Also in 2018, the Annual Big Data in Agriculture Convention, co-hosted by ILRI and ICRAF, attracted 400 attendees, 2,500 remote participants, and millions of social media views. The convention reached its target of 60% non-CGIAR participants, with global information technology firms, start-ups, governments, and other research institutions forging new partnerships and seeing the breadth and depth of CGIAR research (BIG DATA, 2018).


The Platform offered five start-up grants in 2018 to data-driven projects under their innovation process, the Inspire Challenge, and granted scale-up awards to three projects from the 2017 cohort. The Platform reviewed the innovation strategy of the Inspire Challenge and improved the application process to source fewer “basic research” innovations. As a result, over 90% of submissions in 2018 targeted small producers as users of data innovation (BIG DATA, 2018).


Photo by P. Vishwanathan/CCAFS