Unlocking the Agricultural Data Revolution

8:00 am - 5:00 pm MT

  • Convening Event

Download Convening Event Report

In September 2020, FFAR and partners hosted a virtual event to discuss data ownership and data privacy. The two-day session included panels, networking, and a student competition, as well as a call to action.  This event was open to the many people who work in agriculture and food, and those interested in data and innovative research across disciplines:

  • Farmers
  • Researchers
  • Private companies
  • NGOs
  • Government agencies
  • And others!

Day One Recordings

Thursday, September 24, 2020: Data Research, Applications and Impact

Opening remarks

  • Dean John Coleman, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota
  • Dean Brian Buhr, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Minnesota
  • Dean Karen Plaut, College of Agriculture, Purdue University
  • Executive Director Sally Rockey, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The “burning platform” – what’s at stake for agriculture and data?

  • Ranveer Chandra, Chief Scientist, Microsoft Farmbeats
  • Dorn Cox, Farmer & Researcher, Wolfe’s Neck, OpenTEAM

Building sustainability and resilience: the role of data 

  • Kellee James, Founder & CEO, Mercaris
  • Steve Rosenzweig, Soil Scientist, General Mills
  • Meredith Ellis, Rancher, G Bar C Ranch
  • Amanda Raster, Science Director, U.S. Farm and Ranchers in Action (moderator)

Day 1 Demos: Demonstration of innovative applications of data & technologies 

  • Jenette Ashtekar, Vice President of Sustainability & Regeneration, CIBO Technologies
  • Jay McEntire, Founder & CEO, Arva Intelligence  
  • Chelsea Carey, Working Lands Research Director, Principal Soil Ecologist, Point Blue Conservation Science
  • Mike Komp, Executive Director, Conservation Technology Information Center (moderator)

Day Two Recordings

Friday, September 25, 2020: Data Privacy and Management

Barriers for access and diversity in ag: overcoming the digital divide 

  • Kellee James, Founder & CEO, Mercaris
  • Meredith Ellis, Rancher, G Bar C Ranch
  • LaKisha Odom, Science Program Director, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research
  • Dorn Cox, Farmer & Researcher, Wolfe’s Neck, OpenTEAM  (moderator)

Data privacy: where’s the benefit? 

  • Barath Raghavan, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California
  • Michael Sykuta, Associate Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Trey Hill, CEO & President, Harborview Farms
  • Kevin Silverstein, Scientific Lead for the Research Informatics Solutions, Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (moderator)

How industries outside of ag overcome data challenges

  • Pasha Sternberg, Associate of Tech Transactions & Data Privacy Practice, Polsinelli
  • Samit Shah, Executive Director of Growth Analytics, Aetna
  • Shefali Mehta, Founder, Open Rivers Consulting Associates (moderator)

Day 2 Demos: Demonstration of data and technologies facilitating data management

  • Rikin Gandhi, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Digital Green
  • Aaron Ault, Farmer and Farmware, Trellis & Purdue OATS
  • Liron Brish, CEO and Founder, Farm Dog
  • Dennis Buckmaster, Professor, Purdue OATS

This event built upon the Agricultural Data Privacy meeting, held in San Antonio in November 2019, that kicked off the broader effort and collaboration. Below are links to recorded sessions that framed the conversation:



Prior to this virtual event, there were four webinars discussing agricultural data privacy, how organizations are stepping up to the challenge and what is at stake for farmers and beyond. To continue the conversation post-event, there were two follow-up webinars in October 2020.

1. Community Call to Action: What do we need to Unlock the Ag Data Revolution?

Speakers: Shefali Mehta, Ankita Raturi, Kevin Silverstein
July 30, 2020 12:00 – 1:00 pm ET

2. Retrospective on the 2019 Data Privacy Panel

Speakers: Mike Komp, LaKisha Odom, James Wilgenbusch
August 13, 2020 12:00 – 1:00 pm ET

3. Farmers’ Perspectives on Agricultural Data & Decision Making

Speakers: Aaron Ault, Dorn Cox, Meredith Ellis
August 27, 2020 12:00 – 1:00 pm ET

4. Ag Tech Answering the Farmers’ Needs

Karen Hildebrand, WW Tech Leader, Agriculture at Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Wade Kent, Global Digital Agronomy Development Lead, Syngenta
Abhinaya Konduru, Associate, M25
Billy Tiller, Co-Founder and CEO, Grower Information Services Cooperative (GiSC)
Bryan Runck, Adjunct Assistant Professor & Research Associate, University of Minnesota
Ali Joglekar, Adjunct Assistant Professor & Research Associate, University of Minnesota
Ansu Chatterjee, Professor, University of Minnesota
September 10, 2020  3:00 – 4:00 pm ET

5. FFAR and USFRA: Introducing the Agriculture Climate Partnership and a Call to Action

Speakers: LaKisha Odom, Amanda Raster and others TBD
Date and Time TBD

6. FFAR Data Strategy and Policy Discussion

Speakers: Rashada Alexander, Julie Reynes
Date and Time TBD

Planning Committee

This virtual event and related activities were organized by a diverse planning committee crossing academia, research and nonprofit sectors: Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR), Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), OpenTEAM, Purdue OATS alongside the hosts, the Institute of Research in Statistics (IRSA), GEMS and the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) at the University of Minnesota. This working team has been collaborating since August 2019 with the data privacy convening and the subsequent, broader September 2020 event. The working team is building an effort that stretches beyond these events to develop sustaining solutions and actions to impact the ag data space.


Members of the Planning Committee:

Ansu Chatterjee, Ph.D., IRSA, co-chair

Shefali Mehta, Ph.D., Open Rivers, co-chair

Amanda Schwartz, IRSA

Ali Joglekar, Ph.D., UMN GEMS

Kevin Silverstein, Ph.D., UMN GEMS and MSI

LaKisha Odom, Ph.D., FFAR

Lauren Winstel, FFAR

Dorn Cox, Ph.D., OpenTEAM

Ankita Raturi, Ph.D., Purdue OATS

Dennis Buckmaster, Ph.D., Purdue OATS

Mike Komp, CTIC

Additional Support Staff from UMN School of Statistics: Matthew Dangel, Madelyn Dunski, Taylor Utterberg, Taryn Verley, Kelsey Willems


The following organizations came together to advance the agricultural data area and bring their unique expertise and missions to this effort.

The Institute for Research on Statistics and its Applications (IRSA)

IRSA organizes interdisciplinary events, offers essential training and produces cutting-edge research on relevant and significant topics intersecting data science and statistics. Its programs promote effective, trustworthy data science methodology and convene experts that span diverse sectors and industries in order to foster creative problem solving and collaboration.

GEMS Agroinformatics Initiative

GEMS shepherds and facilitates the sharing of data across private and public spaces, focusing on the interoperability of data in the agricultural domain. Private agricultural researchers are particularly mindful of the security of their data and preservation of IP. So in order to tap private data for public use, fully open frameworks may not suffice. We hope to enable public researchers to tap private data in their research projects while preserving private IP.

Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR)

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research is a nonprofit organization mandated to develop public private partnerships to tackle the intractable and transformative issues in Agriculture. FFAR pioneers scientific exploration, expanding the frontiers of food and agriculture research to develop solutions that benefit farmers and consumers. We believe that data use, data privacy, data value and data ownership all represent research gaps/white spaces that are ripe spaces for partnership and innovation and we believe by addressing these challenges together, we have the opportunity to improve both sustainability of our lands and profitability of our farmers and ranchers.


Open team is an open technology ecosystem of tools and communities for agricultural management. The aim is to 1) connect parts of the ecosystem in order to make site specific data driven decisions at the farm level and to 2) create value from data by making it available for use in lots of systems. The ecosystem should be open source, but data is secure, private and valuable. Ag data ownership is a key concern

Purdue Oats

The Purdue Open Ag Technology and Systems Center is focusing on open source tools and devices to improve the interoperability throughout the ag data pipeline (from origination to decisions and including reuse). We recognize that private and public data comes from a wide variety of sources and is stored in a variety of platforms that need to work together for data to truly deliver on its promise. We have technical focus, but are aware of the cultural implications and hope to influence policy.

Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC)

Bringing technology to agricultural conservation domains and push boundaries (with remote sensing, machine learning, IOT) and to be a bridge between government agencies, NGOs and industry partners. Interested in providing new, valuable information for farmers that is not the same as what has been done in the past.

Open Rivers

Open Rivers Consulting Associates is a strategy and implementation consulting firm specializing in agricultural, environment and technology.  Open Rivers was launched with the belief that there is a way to do better, for the environment, the species that live in it and for our communities, organizations and their employees. We work with clients and collaborators to find a more robust path to grow and evolve while maintaining our values and without destroying the very elements that make us human and connect us to this planet. Therefore, Open Rivers has a strong commitment to preserve this earth and to support the many people working tirelessly to find solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.  Robust and efficient data access and usage are critical to decision-making and finding sustainable solutions in agriculture.

Questions?  Contact LaKisha Odom of FFAR at lodom@foundationfar.org or Shefali Mehta of Open Rivers Consulting Associates at shefali@open-rivers.com