The Big Data of Food

The world is ripe for a new smart data-driven Green Revolution. While the last Green Revolution used 20th century industrial techniques to keep our world fed, these are no longer adequate with the challenges we face today a growing population (expected to hit 9 billion by 2050), climate change, sub-optimal crop yields, de-emphasis on biodiversity, unsustainable consumption habits, food waste, endemic warfare, and others.

Big Data and low cost computing provide us with a strong toolset for transforming ag tech in the 21st century. We are on the way to economically planting trillions of sensors in fields, food markets, and even onto living things. Mining the data these sensors generate will help us create new services, providing many of the answers needed to manage agriculture and the food supply. Data-informed services will help scientists, farmers and businesses make giant leaps in genetics, agronomy, planning, environmental analysis and distribution.

The Big Data revolution is one key factor in how agriculture will continue to feed the human race well beyond our current population. Big data-driven systems integrating a growing amount of information about crops, weather, consumer preferences, logistics and productivity measurements are beginning to emerge. One example is work on an open database for farmers accessible around the globe so farmers of any size can benefit data generally available only to large scale farmers in the past.

While promising, there's still much work to be done to truly realize the full impact of today's technologies on agriculture. One issue we constantly see is that collaboration in ag tech is broken. Already agricultural data services have run into mistrust between farmers and the giant agribusiness companies which serve them. Other services have tried to connect industries which have little knowledge of each other, such as restaurants and farmers, which don’t adequately take into account the realities farmers face every day.

What is clear is that for big data driven services to truly help agriculture feed the world in the 21st century, these services must drive data-based collaboration amongst all the communities involved in food, from farm to table. For these collaborations to succeed there needs to be management of the data being shared so that each member of the community feels its interests are being respected. This can range from governments wanting to ensure that their data remains completely open to all to organizations being able to select the partners with whom they collaborate over data. As a pioneer in bringing managed data to the world of big data, Intertrust looks forward to working with the ag tech community to help collaboration to feed the world.