The GODAN Project: open data for sustainable agriculture

The GODAN Project: open data for sustainable agriculture

September 26, 2017

The GODAN Project: open data for sustainable agriculture

Officially founded in 2013 as a result of the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, the initiative for innovative  farming has already created a widespread global network in support of the use of open data.

At a time in which sustainable agriculture and food are facing new, exceptional challenges, we need equally new and exceptional solutions.” With these words, the coordinators of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) project highlighted the pressing need to implement effective, winning strategies to overcome modern challenges, especially that of ensuring there is enough food for the 800 million people who are still going without.  

The GODAN project, which consists of 570 global partners, believes the answer lies in the new, open data revolution within innovative farming. Financial support from numerous important institutions – from the US government to the FAO, and the Open Data institute (ODI) as well as many others – reinforces the importance of the initiative’s message, which concentrates on the creation of an international support network and which promotes collaborations on various levels among partners. The final goal? To take advantage of the plethora of data generated by new technology to resolve ongoing problems in sustainable agriculture and to benefit farmers and the health of consumers.


The theory of innovative farming

Underpinning the GODAN project is the conviction that improving the availability, use and quantity of data is key for making sustainable agriculture a reality and nourishing the population. Still today, agriculture has to deal with asymmetrical data distribution and limits in using said data, which impedes progress and a more equal distribution of resources. 

By contrast, open data has already proven to be valuable from many perspectives and might prove more so should the GODAN project succeed. The project has three main goals: to bring together the complex “ecosystem” of partners involved, provide them with the equipment necessary to tackle challenges (case studies, articles and tools of various types), and bolster the ecosystem by pushing policy makers to create the best possible conditions for making the use of open data more widespread and simple


All this is made possible thanks to the organisation of ad hoc events and tools and to the creation of working groups focused on the various issues – from the laws which regulate the data use to the United Nations sustainable development goals – whereby partners can collaborate and share ideas and experiences on how to use open data to overcome agricultural and food-related challenges. 

The power of data

In 1986, nearly 1% of global data production was in a digital format. In 2007, that number rose to 94% and today practically all data generated is digital. “For the first time in the history of mankind we find ourselves able to instantly share enormous quantities of information from anywhere in the world”, explained the experts of the GODAN Project, convinced that open data is the next revolution and the solution to many of modern society’s challenges in terms of sustainable agriculture and food. Proof of the importance and effectiveness of a strategy based on open data isn’t lacking: a few such examples were summarised in the two volumes of “Success Stories” which are available on the initiative’s website. The webpage is also a place to delve into a few specific research topics, developed with GODAN researchers or by their partners. “Data is knowledge. Or rather, it becomes so when, after having been generated, it is processed and shared in a way which is understood and accessible to all.” This is according to the experts, who remind us that one of the main advantages of the use of open data is the ability to make choices based on facts. 

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