- Author: Andy Lyons
A Unique Data Science Summit
Yesterday, several of us in the IGIS Program participated remotely in a very interesting summit on data science in agriculture. The summit was sponsored by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which is the funding arm of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The goal of the summit was to hear examples of how data collection systems and analytics are playing a transformative role in agriculture, in order to help USDA develop an investment strategy for the next phase of their data science grant program. USDA has been funding innovative big data projects for some time, and will soon be rolling out a new initiative called FACT (Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics and Tools Initiative).
It was exciting to hear the presentations about how rapid advancements in data collection systems, processing, and analytics are changing agriculture across the US and overseas. From sensor systems that support precision farming, to a new generation of genomics studies, to smarter production models and decision support systems, innovation is happening everywhere. The recorded presentations are online.
What Should USDA Fund?
NIFA is actively soliciting input from experts in the field about funding priorities, and have set up an online forum where people can provide feedback and vote for ideas. The forum is centered around six questions that were also discussed in breakout groups at yesterday's summit. The questions ask what are the most promising opportunities for:
- data-driven advances in agriculture and the food-production systems?
- enhancing cross-sector advances in data applications?
- data-driven advances to address societal well-being and consumer demands?
- to address challenges of various facets of data management and application?
- to ensure future generations of data expertise?
- big data in communications, property rights, and communities?
Data Science in ANR
ANR Farm Advisors and Specialists have been exploring similar questions for years. To name just a couple of examples, the Precision Agriculture workgroup has been developing methods to measure and manage for in-field variability. ANR has also sponsored several apps-for-ag hackathons, including one they hosted this past summer in collaboration with the State Fair. Here at IGIS, we teach workshops on geospatial data analysis, data management, and remote sensing with drones. We also maintain ANR's network of Flux towers, and have digitized historical records from ANR's network of Research and Extension Centers.
What do YOU think?
Many people think data analytics will be the engine for the next revolution in agriculture - what do you think the priority areas should be? NIFA is soliciting input through their Ideas Engine through the end of October. Take this unique opportunity to help shape the future of agricultural data science by letting your voice be heard!