Farm-Oriented Open Data in Europe, known simply as FOODIE, is an open data initiative based in Europe with ambitions to help agriculture across the globe. It aims to increase efficiency and open new opportunities for all involved in planning, growing and delivering food to the marketplace.
Making existing agricultural and supply chain data available to as many people as possible is the goal. In doing this FOODIE aims to change the culture of many large public institutions and government departments, turning them from owners and collectors of data, to organisations that freely share data.
This new approach should help to make wiser, more informed decisions, protecting the environment, improving agricultural techniques and driving efficiencies in the food chain. It can be applied across Europe and supports global food production.
FOODIE has funding until 2017 and the team behind the organisation predict that their service will, “facilitate market entry of new companies and the development of innovative services. It will encourage SMEs to seize novel business opportunities offered by the FOODIE platform and develop products.” Karel Charvet of FOODIE explains its present direction, “We are focusing on arable farming and horticulture, with respect to precision agriculture in the broadest sense.
We’re not only interested in site specific farming, but also in logistics, such as machine management and transport needs.” Agriculture is of strategic importance to Europe and its economy. The sector’s complexity means agro-food operators must manage many different and heterogeneous sources of information. This involves collection, storage, sharing and analysis of large quantities of spatially and non-spatially referenced data.
These data flows currently present a hurdle to the development of precision agriculture, as the multitude of data models, formats, interfaces and reference systems in use can be incompatible. FOODIE believes that economically and environmentally sound decisions need much better management of all this information.
Whatever an individual user’s interest might be, everyone will need to access a diverse range of data in their planning and decisionmaking. That means the hub must be interoperable across a wide range of devices, services and facilities. Moreover, the service promises to build an interactive and collaborative network made up of a wide range of food-related businesses and specialists.
This is being achieved by integrating existing open datasets relating to agriculture, along with data publication and linking to external agricultural sources, providing specific and high-value applications and services to support those at the planning and decisionmaking levels in food production.
Asked to outline one significant impact of the FOODIE project, Karel Charvet gives a precise answer, “To develop open standardized data for precision farming.” This has led FOODIE to carefully address the needs of four core groups in the food chain: those in the agriculture sector who are end-users of applications; public sector bodies communicating with farmers about taxation, subsidies and regulation; researchers involved in large scale experimentation who want data; and ICT companies developing new applications for the agriculture and food sector.
The team aims to deliver a range of practical tools and highlights one of their ambitions for the website, “The FOODIE project will enable farmers to provide their own data by easy to use crowdsourcing tools and applications that encapsulate the complexity of the underlying services technology. For instance, this could be a mobile or web application that offers a form with fields for collecting specific information from farms or a wizard application that allows a farmer to configure, with a few “clicks”, the sensor system within his farm to send periodic observations to the FOODIE platform.”
Karel Charvet outlines some of FOODIE’s most recent work, “Open data is not enough on its own without standardisation, so one of our priorities is to define the standardised data model which can be used worldwide, supporting harmonisation of open and, as yet, not open data. We’ve also designed a FOODIE data model for arable precision farming and cooperated on the specification of the SensLog data model. This supports in situ and machinery monitoring.”
But FOODIE has broader aspirations, since agriculture relies on a complex set of services to get food from field to fork. Charvet explains their involvement with transport, “Together with others we have cooperated on the definition of the model for the OpenTransportMap.” This helps increase efficiency and more timely delivery in the movement of fresh produce from farm to processors and distributors.
Incorporating so much open sourced data helps all types of businesses in the agriculture sector build their own unique services and improve the quality of their products. In short, FOODIE is setting out to increase the viability and profitability of commercial plans, helping to refine proposals that ensure customers get deliveries faster, cheaper and better.
But it is not only business that will benefit from a service spanning Europe and beyond. Anyone involved in environmental protection and agricultural policy will find value in connecting to FOODIE. In the European Union there are currently 28 nations with more than 100 regions; they have their own parliaments and administrations, and each jurisdiction creates its own set of agricultural regulations. The cumulative wisdom and experience gleaned from all these legislative systems and regulations can be exploited for future policies and decision-making.
Worldwide there are around 200 countries, each with their own environmental and agricultural concerns, adding up to a seemingly insurmountable web of rules and regulations. But FOODIE aims to bring all this data under one roof. If you are involved in farming or operating a business in agriculture it is vital to understand the variety of rules and regulations in the international food chain.
Future agriculture knowledge management systems will need to support the profitability of the sector and, more than ever, aid environment protection. But the FOODIE team are keenly aware of an additional need: to link the activities of individuals and organisations across the agro-food industry, aiding effective collaboration across a wide range of interests, representing consumers, public administration and wider stakeholder groups, with focus on those living and working in rural communities.