Hacking Agriculture

Hacking Agriculture
From foodtank.com, by Kathleen Murphy

For farmers in parts of Asia, where open access to knowledge is limited, a new wave of agriculture information and resources is aimed at making their jobs easier and more profitable. Wellsprings of information exist internationally and within places like China, but because of language and lack of structural support, some of this knowledge has yet to reach the people who need it most.

The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), partnering with the Agricultural Information Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), has strengthened the information capacity of Chinese forestry and agriculture institutions through workshops, conferences, and even hackathons. As a result of GFAR’s work in China, a new movement of knowledge sharing has reached this former blip on the knowledge share map. The ability of agriculture professionals and service providers to share expertise and research is crucial to fulfilling development goals in places like China.

The Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD) is a web-based movement directing open, specific agricultural information to development organizations in an effort to reduce poverty and hunger. CIARD has expanded its program to include a bank of services offered by registered institutions. This network, known as the CIARD RING, collects a wealth of information, makes it searchable, and right at the fingertips of those who need it most. CIARD states “Enhanced openness of this knowledge by all actors is essential both to enable effective decision-making and to empower those concerned with agricultural production and food security.”

GFAR was invited by the Chinese government to share its ideas with CAAS. In November GFAR facilitated a workshop aimed at improving the country’s information management and showcased how information sharing can lead to agricultural development. Questions about security, intellectual property, and Chinese policies were addressed in recommendations drafted by workshop participants.

Food security through open knowledge is a goal of another group as well: software developers.

Software developers may seem like an unlikely partner, but enthusiasm for open access has reached far beyond the usual suspects. In November a group of developers, information management and agriculture professionals competed in China’s first Hackathon for open agricultural data. Six teams competed in the event, hosted by CIARD and GFAR, to build platforms for open data. The winning team, “E-farmers,” created an app integrating information in the vegetable industry chain. The app makes it easier for farmers to access recommended varieties, planting and price guidance, plus other resources,

Through leaps in the development of knowledge sharing platforms and policies, China will be able to access vital information making it easier to alleviate hunger and poverty. The information technology that was once absent in China is now transforming agriculture and economy. Who would have guessed that software developers would be one of agriculture’s biggest allies?

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