How can we improve agriculture, food and nutrition with open data?

This discussion paper outlines how open data is boosting innovation in agricultural and nutritional business and service models; explains how open data promotes transparency across the sector to accelerate progress, identify areas for improvement and help create new insights; and finally suggests how this important progress can continue to scale.

Fourteen use cases show how open data can have impact in different stages of agriculture, food production, and consumption and help to solve problems for a range of stakeholders, from smallholder farmers to agribusinesses. From managing scarce water resources during the California drought or enabling farmers in Africa to estimate the outbreak of animal diseases, to helping consumers avoid harmful allergens in their food, open data is becoming a valuable tool for policy-makers, industry, small-scale farmers and consumers alike.

There are still challenges related to data management, licensing, interoperability and exploitation, and thus a need to evolve policies, practices and ethics around closed, shared, and open data, but there are also huge opportunities coming from the emerging global data infrastructure. With innovative business models and international political will, investment now in open-data-driven initiatives in agriculture and nutrition offers solutions to major real-world problems. This paper seeks to stimulate discussion about the potential uses, needs and challenges of people, organisations and governments interested in exploring open data within this field.