Based on consultations with the agriculture and open data community, 14 key categories of data have emerged, of which three clearly stand out: Geodata, Weather Data and Market Data.
These 14 key categories have been evaluated in terms of impact and effort to publish, along with case studies and examples of use. You can find the full impact evaluation on the Open Up Guide to Agriculture Web site, an agriculture open data policy development resource created by GODAN in partnership with the Open Data Charter.
Having access to and using several types of data in parallel drastically enhances the value of any of these data sources.
Administration and Legislation Data
Government, Agricultural Law and Regulation
Government data on agricultural law and regulations is essential for agricultural stakeholders. Policy and legislative texts relevant for the administration of the agricultural sector can help farmers access opportunities within the sector.
Another example is clear land ownership registration, which leads to better stewardship of the land and therefore more sustainable farming practices, as shown by land registry initiatives in both Rwanda and Denmark.
Decision making - resulting in policies and legislation - is the core business of any government. By making these documents available online as structured and computer-searchable text, third party ICT services can be developed to enable better sharing and implementation of these policies and legislation, thereby contributing to the realisation of their objectives. Having lists of applicable policies and regulations, and extracting any data they contain (such as lists of subsidies) can also be helpful.
Farmers can optimise their position with regard to subsidy opportunities, legal restrictions and other policy instruments by having better access to the relevant policy and legislative documents.
By having better access to policy and legislative documents: 1) rural advisors can provide better recommendation to farmers, 2) other actors in the value chain, e.g. traders, processors, unions etc., may be able to adapt better to the existing legal framework, e.g. legislation for finance, input usage regulations etc., 3) civil society is better able to track policy developments, 4) internal government collaboration can be improved.
Governments can play a pivotal role by publishing relevant datasets and making sure they are ready for reuse. Government open data feeds the pool of information that can be used to develop information services and decision-making tools for stakeholders in the agricultural value chain.
Official records also provide useful data for farmers, as by having better access to official documents such as lists of permitted pesticides and herbicides, or the occurrence of diseases, farmers can make more sustainable choices.
Through the use of official records, other types of data such as weather, crop yield, pest outbreak, and production history data can be used for risk management (hedging yields, insurance) and damage control (such as through drought and pests).
Government Finance Data
The availability of open data on government spending in the agricultural sector can lead to more transparency and equity. Farmers can use the data to provide feedback to the government about how taxes and government resources are spent, leading to targeted and more efficient budget spending.
Rural development project data
Funding for rural development projects usually either comes from local government or a donor government (in the form of aid). Rural development projects aim to support agricultural and economic development, and the environment, in isolated, sparsely populated areas. Data collected from these projects might include project level data, financial data, but also monitoring and evaluation of project activities.
Making government-funded rural development data more available and accessible would provide more transparency, and better opportunities to collaborate and share resources and information between different programmes and projects, increasing their effectiveness.
Development organisations can also use the data to design collaborative projects, find partners to work with and learn from best practices, making rural development more effective. While private sector organisations can use the data to better align their investments with government funding, avoiding duplication.
Detailed information coming from baseline and project evaluation results can be used as input for agricultural research.
Land use data and productivity data
Land use data might describe such details as the cultivated area, crops grown and yield in different regions, helping governments monitor food security and economic development. These figures allow all value-chain actors, from farmers through to retailers, to better plan and adapt their businesses.
The data is generally stored in statistical records and tables and is easily published as such as open data. Satellite information is already in a digital format.
Value chain data
Most governments collect a substantial quantity of information on individual value-chain actors. Farmers are often encouraged to submit information – often in the form of surveys - to get subsidies, in compliance with legal regulations. Sharing this information allows stakeholders more insight into the value chain, facilitating its function.
Not only does this allow businesses to better understand the markets and meet the needs of the consumer, it provides a benchmark against which the competitiveness of their business can be measured.
Infrastructure data consists of such things as national networks for roads, water and ICT. It includes information their condition, maintenance schedules, logistical service providers and timetables.
Sharing this data helps value-chain actors to better plan their activities. It allows for informed decision making in areas such as logistics and risk assessment.
By providing open data on markets and market prices, farmers are be better positioned to negotiate at the farm gate, select crops, and select preferential distribution channels. With access to historical crop prices, farmers are empowered to make more informed decisions on what to plant and where to sell crops.
Market data also helps financial services to assess and determine the price of a financial product, increasing access to finance.
Natural Resources, earth and environment data
Quantitative data on surface weather variables including forecasts, local observations and historic archives
Plant growth is affected by and in many cases directly dependent on weather conditions. In addition, most agricultural activities are dependent on weather conditions for planning and effectiveness. It is therefore no surprise that all agricultural stakeholders have an interest in meteorological data.
Most governments have specific departments or agencies dealing with weather information. By making meteorological information open, it not only becomes easier to share, but also allows the development of specialised information platforms.
Elevation data describes the elevation of the terrain and its derivatives, such as slope and aspect.
Height and height difference can have a great impact on agriculture, affecting such things as as the flow of water, erosion, temperature, and exposure to wind and sun. Sharing this information helps value-chain actors to better understand the local production environment in different places.
Data is collected through a combination of satellite technology and, where necessary, drawing on other derivative datasets - such as drainage and erosion susceptibility maps - to correct errors and fill data gaps.
Hydrological data describes the state (e.g. salinity) and dynamics of ground and surface water. The availability of water and changes to the aquatic system determine the agricultural potential of an area.
Water in excessively high or low quantity presents a threat to agriculture and can have disastrous outcomes. Governments possess many different sources of hydrological information, and the data is mainly used for planning purposes at a strategic level. Near-real-time information on water fluctuations (groundwater, river discharge) or drought predictions are the only data that may be directly beneficial for operational farm advice.
Access to hydrological data allows, for example, suppliers to make better business decisions, financial service providers to make a better risk assessments and NGOs to better plan their projects in relation to expected water availability.
Soil quality influences many farm-level decisions including the selection of crops, and the need for input and management of the land. Many governments collect soil information in order to gain a better understanding of the environmental conditions in different areas of the country. However the reliability of soil data depends on the accuracy and level of detail of the information. Generally the information is coarse (1 km or 250m resolution), making it only relevant for generalised farm advice or strategic planning.
A detailed soil map provides better understanding of soil characteristics, resulting in better crop selection, targeted advice and farm management practice.
Soil data is useful for planning crops and yields and to inform risk assessments.
Agronomic Data, Agricultural Technologies
This data category relates to crop selection, crop and land management, and typically collected by farm extension services or government research institutes.
By opening agronomic data, farm extension recommendations can be shared more widely and updated more efficiently.
When shared in an accessible manner, farmers can use the timely and accurate data to improve their farming practice, resulting in a higher yields and more sustainable farming systems. This, in turn, helps suppliers to plan their business and increases the confidence of financial service providers, allowing them to make more informed risk assessments.
Pest and disease management data
Sharing information on pests and diseases with farmers in real time can prevent further spread; saving crops, and reducing economic losses and environmental damage. However, information on pests and diseases can be considered sensitive due to trade and export impacts.
Access to such information means farmers are likely to only use pesticide when responding to a real threat, saving money and the environment. Immediate action when a disease or pest outbreak does occur can prevent severe crop loss and halt the spread of the problem.