The industry thinks in fields, so why shouldn’t it be able to access agrifood data that way? Professor Richard Tiffin, Chief Scientific Officer for Agrimetrics, explains how the organisation has made big data user-centric with Field Explorer, a radically new suite products for everyone in the sector.
The new service was launched to representatives from across the agrifood value chain. It will allow unprecedented access to a growing body of publicly funded and commercially available datasets, through a single interface.
Agrimetrics has invested two years in collating data that would be the most useful and insightful for the industry and is making it available in a consistent format so that the datasets can be cross analysed for the first time.
Public and acquired databases that can be accessed include those from the UK Met Office, Natural England, Environment Agency, ISRIC (International Soil Reference and Information Centre) and NASA. This creates a strong foundation for the data platform and, by providing ease of access to quality data, will accelerate the development of new products and services by other organisations in the agri-tech cluster.
Professor Tiffin says: “There are still many unknowns in agriculture, but what we do know is that complex systems can behave in predictable ways if all the elements are connected. Creating a better-connected food system will allow us to avoid the shocks that can be catastrophic to food supply and to the associated natural ecosystems, communities and businesses.”
Matthew Smith, Business Development Director for Microsoft described the Agrimetrics data platform, which is built on Azure, as a ‘digital twin’, a virtual representation of the real world that allows prediction of the impact of interventions and a mechanism for asking questions. He says: “Agrimetrics has created a valuable foundation for the digitisation of the agrifood industry, now it is time to go out into the world and see how we can make businesses from it. It is an exciting opportunity.”
A unique feature of Field Explorer is that access to environmental, soil and crop data is made through a ‘map of fields’, created by Agrimetrics from earth observation data provided by Airbus. This has been used to map field boundaries across the UK creating an interactive interface for the data (picture attached).
Dr John Wills, Sales Manager, Airbus comments: “Airbus is delighted that its earth observation data is being used in this innovative way. It was great to work with Agrimetrics as it seeks to join up the agriculture sector. Field Explorer, which connects disparate data to field maps – is a great first step on this journey.”
The user-centric approach was also welcomed by Dr Juno McKee, Strategic Projects Lead of NIAB: “The field structure forms a useful device for making sense of complex data. The Agrimetrics approach offers great potential to catalyse industry collaboration and underpin the next generation of precision solutions with data insights to boost productivity and profit across our sector.”
Norfolk dairy farmer Emily Norton was impressed by the efforts that Agrimetrics has made to improve industry access to publicly funded data, and firmly believes that streamlining data collection will be of great benefit. She says: “I think there is a strong role for the data centres to lobby to make sure Government data is open source. Data can then be valued accordingly, and still protected, but made available in a way that provides useful services to people. Only by making it open source can you have true innovation.”
Agrimetrics CEO David Flanders agrees, he comments that the days of keeping silos of data are over. He says: “The real value of data comes when you connect it. We are working with several multinational organisations to connect the data that is held internally in different departments. This is allowing them to gain greater value from the information they have collected and to use it in new ways.
Dr David Lawrence, Chair of Agrimetrics, concluded: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, what we are seeing here are at last are the tools the industry needs to do this. This is a huge opportunity but we need the interaction of those who need and use this information to get involved and help steer it.”