Unleashing the Potential of Big Data in Agriculture: Water Use

Sally Rockey, Ph.D.

Executive Director Emeritus

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research recognizes the critical need to more sustainably manage agricultural water use. I am blogging today, on World Water Day,  to help raise awareness about this important issue, share the ways in which we at FFAR plan to help tackle this challenge and to invite you to join us.

The Challenge
Agriculture accounts for approximately 70 percent of global freshwater use, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The volume of water we need to feed the world will only increase as the population grows—and we must ignite innovation in agriculture technology and practices to continue to meet the demand.

What can we do?
As Charles Fishman wrote in the New York Times last week, good open data drives innovation.  The agricultural system generates a multitude of data from sources as diverse as on-farm equipment, satellite sensors, production facilities, surveillance systems and scientific research. Couple that with the wealth of data housed at federal agencies and you have incredible potential to improve agriculture on a scale unimaginable even a decade ago.

FFAR is a new Global Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition partner and we are proud to join the many groups working to seize opportunities to advance research through better, more cohesive open data. For our first dive into this space, FFAR will work to unlock the potential of existing agricultural data as it relates to agricultural water use.

Where to start?
Unifying, collecting and layering on end-user analysis capabilities will be a monumental task for an organization larger than FFAR. The first step in unleashing the power of the enormous volume of agricultural water data is to identify what is out there. That is where FFAR will focus first.

In April, FFAR, the USDA, the U.S. Water Partnership and the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska will convene a panel discussion as part of the Water for Food Global Conference in Nebraska. The panel, “Big Data: Partnerships to Leverage Data for Water and Food Security,” will explore the future of Big Data as it relates to water use and food security. Join me at the Water for Food Global Conference by registering here.

We’ll follow the conference with an invite-only discussion with agriculture, cloud computing and information technology industry representatives to synthesize ideas from the panel and discuss a path forward for a Big Data discovery initiative led by FFAR. We look forward to letting you know how you can get involved!

Thank you for stopping by Rock Talk to join me in promoting the protection of a precious agricultural resource. How is your organization recognizing World Water Day? Let me know in the comments below.


Dr. Sally Rockey, Executive Director