Big Data Europe: Second Community Workshop for Societal Challenge 2 – Food and Agriculture

Kimmo Rossi presenting relevant activities of DG CONNECT at the 2nd BDE SC2 workshop

[As FAO focal point for the Big Data Europe H2020 project, I wrote this blog post for the Big Data Europe website and the GFAR website]

GFAR is participating together with FAO in the H2020 project “Big Data Europe: Integrating Big Data, Software & Communities for Addressing Europe’s Societal Challenges” (BDE).

BDE will provide support mechanisms for all the major aspects of a data value chain, in terms of the employed data and technology assets, the participating roles and the established or evolving processes. The effectiveness of the provided support mechanisms will be assessed in different domains pertaining to Europe’s major societal challenges with respect to the needs and requirements of the related communities.

One of the core data challenges addressed by the project is food and agriculture (“Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the Bioeconomy”). Responsibilities of partners representing the societal challenges are: engaging the community, understanding data and technologies used and needed, selecting use cases.

A first workshop on big data for food and agriculture took place in September 2015 in Paris.
A second workshop, "European Policy Perspectives on Data-intensive Agriculture & Food.
Joint workshop of Big Data Europe & GODAN". was held in Brussels on 30 September 2016.

While the first workshop gathered mainly the research community (Bioversity, CYMMIT, CRA Italy, INRA, Wageningen University, Global Plant Council) and some representatives from international organizations (FAO) and the industry (Bayer), the objective of this second workshop was to involve a selected group of EC representatives that are working on agendas or initiatives of relevance (from DG AGRI, DG CONNECT, DG RTD as well as the EU Publications Office) to share recent developments and funding schemes with a number of experts from key non-EC organizations working on data for food and agriculture (FAO, CGIAR, GODAN, INRA, Alterra Wageningen, TNO, Syngenta, AgroKnow).

The one-day workshop followed the DG AGRI “Digitising the Agri-food Sector” meeting that took place on September 28th-29th, also in Brussels, and this gave us the opportunity to a) have some members of the BDE project and some key partners invited to the DG AGRI meeting to influence the agenda for the next biennium; and b) to get a full report of the meeting during the BDE workshop, from which we were glad to learn that open data (more precisely “combining and exchanging data”) was one of the 5 identified priorities for DG AGRI for the next biennium (the others being: farm optimization, food traceability, environmental issues / sustainability, creating new businesses).

The agenda was organized around three main sessions:

1) Towards a Data Ecosystem, where participants from DG CONNECT, DG AGRI, GODAN, Syngenta and FAO presented their latest endeavours to involve their respective stakeholders in envisioning what a data ecosystem for food and agriculture should look like and what has to be done to get there.

2) Scientific communities & open research data, where participants from the research community presented their current activities under different funding schemes (EC and beyond).

3) Tools & services, where participants presented relevant global and regional infrastructural components for data management and data sharing.

Presentations were followed by Q&A sessions and discussions. The main outcome of the meeting was an agreed list of clear priorities and key aspects that all participants from the various communities found essential, like:

  • Convening mechanisms for making these consultations systematic (and seeing if the EC can also build the case for further systematic investment); also to help align the technology investments (avoiding duplication)
  • New incentives and business models for data sharing (think of automated mechanisms besides “stick and carrot” incentives)
  • Work still needed on interoperability and standards, especially on demonstrating impact and collecting use cases and stories to more clearly understand what is needed / missing; think of evolution of standards into Standards-as-a-Service.
  • Shared data services (big data platforms, e.g. big-data empowered learning mechanisms) and agreed reference datasets (as standards and for learning mechanisms)

All presentations are available on Slideshare: and all photos are available on Flickr:

© 2007 - 2020 Valeria Pesce
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