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October 12th, 2017 / AllAfrica.com

A fortnight ago CGIAR – one of the world’s major agriculture research networks – met in Cali with a wide range of partners to look at how they could use their data using AI and Big Data to drive farming improvements in continents like Africa. Part of the Convention was an Inspire Challenge to take these ideas out into the value chain through agtech start-ups. Russell Southwood and Kelly Wong look at how ideas like these might begin to transform the lives of smallholder farmers.

On September 19-22, 2017 the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) assembled over 200 researchers and partners at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) Research Center in Palmira, Colombia, for their first Big Data in Agriculture Convention. At the Convention, CGIAR launched its Platform for Big Data in Agriculture. The Platform aims to increase the impact of agricultural development by embracing Big Data and other Digital Technology approaches to solve agricultural development problems faster, better and at greater scale.

The Platform will initially work across CGIAR’s network, but the wider vision is that it can be extended to more widely to those working in agriculture. By leveraging CGIAR expertise and that of external partners CGIAR will broaden and deepen experience and capacity and position itself as an innovator and thought leader in the broader big data and ICT sphere. In this way, CGIAR aims to support the use of proven big data innovations to drive agricultural growth in developing countries.

The Platform is designed around three activities: to organize data so it can be used in Big Data analytics, to make multiple and varied data sets holistically analyzable (datasets are discoverable, accessible, & interoperable) and to develop a functional prototype Big Data Platform that can, with this holistic data, conduct Big Data analytics; to convene data analysts, researchers and agricultural practitioners who will use holistic data, the Big Data Platform, and digital technologies to more efficiently and effectively impact agriculture; and to inspire the adoption of real-world innovative digital technology solutions by supporting the implementation of innovation startups that will to solve real world development problems faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. Read more