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Open Farm Data

Topic Type: 

Hi All, Severine asked me to put this up here:

Description of this project idea:

Ben and Dorn please add your thoughts so we can post it as a concept and start building community around this goal on farmhack.

Concept phase

An open-source, GIS-based repository for agricultural information useful for farmer-driven research and experimentation. Creating an easy platform where publicly funded datasets, as well as farmer-created datasets can be used as baseline information for new research, both public and private. This data-layer would host an open API so that developers could create farm-management software, useful for farmers who are pursuing ever more sustainable agriculture through adaptive management.

Uses: Bio-char and soil carbon experiments Testing/ trialling new crops/varieties for climate resiliency Monitoring for soil health

Louis's picture

This is something that I'm trying to position Apitronics to help with. Since many farms will have identical sensors deployed, the sensor specifications will be open of course, and the location will be paired with all the data being gathered, I think it could be a great component to the platform being proposed.

I would love to be part of this discussion and to hear what the research needs are. I will have my own practical uses for the data (primarily building physical models for simulations and automation) but I would love to know how to make the datasets more accessible to others.

dorn's picture

A while ago I started a wiki that I think picks up on some of this. Perhaps we could start to document the features and use cases with it.


I think adding in the Apitronics detail is very exciting. I am working on a diagram and some mock screen shots to illustrate some possible interface ideas. Many of the soil health measures, like penetrometers, have digital readouts with integration to gps. The management data from crop treatments coupled with on the ground soil sampling with environmental monitoring(moisture, pH, temperature etc), aerial imagery and still images and spectral data combined would give a wealth of potential systems information both for management and research. I see this as the missing link for making imaging really useful too - see


In some sense, every farm is already a research farm, but an online data platform would enable the gathering of more data and facilitate sharing of this data to feed into decision support tools etc...

dorn's picture
Jeff Piestrak's picture

One of the prerequisites for sharing and integrating data across actual and intellectual silos, and within larger decision making frameworks, are consistent and well documented open standards for creating/structuring and sharing/publishing that data. Here at Mann Library we've been working on that issue through our development of the VIVO network, which has evolved to include the USDA, and now internationally as AgriVIVO, using and extending the VIVO ontology (https://wiki.duraspace.org/display/VIVO/VIVO+Ontology). In several cases we've been able to capitalize on Drupal’s ability to both publish and ingest “linked data” like that generated through the [VIVO network](see http://impact.cals.cornell.edu/).

Related efforts like the Open Food Data and the Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development movements are working on this as well. Once we have agreed upon standards, it becomes much easier to develop shared tools and networks for using and repurposing data. This is illustrated through the explosion of easy to use GIS tools as the result of Geospatial Web Services.

I'd love to see the Farm Hack community take this up in earnest, perhaps partnering with NESAWG on our Food Knowledge Ecosystem project, and others like AgSquared, and Public Lab.

Louis's picture

Hi Jeff,

It's great to see that there are some standard being put into motion, both locally managed and with global connections!

It looks like the NEFKE is in development but how would I go about finding out the specifications so I could potentially export my data in that format? Are they still being developed? Will the exporting be periodic data-dumps or will the system be setup for dynamic data sharing?

Jeff Piestrak's picture

Great to see some interest and enthusiasm around data standards! (usually a hard sell in my outreach work...)

Louis, NEFKE is in the very early stages of development, still (and hopefully always) very open to the participation and input of others like you. We're looking at the standards mentioned as a guide, but have a lot of work to do toward implementing them in a practical way.

The first thing we'll likely do is look at how we can better leverage and link existing organizational and network data via the Farm to Institution New England and NEFOOD web sites when we migrate them to Drupal. We'll likely extend the VIVO ontology for that, possibly using the Drupal-based ontology editor Neologism Valeria Pesce used for AgriVIVO. This will be supported and articulated through group value network mapping exercises that will enable us to identify the critical pathways and relationships between transactional food value chain players, and the wider support networks. I can see this something like this possibly happening at one of the upcoming Farm Hack gatherings, combining trained value network mapping facilitators with farmers, value chain intermediaries, support people (including info intermediaries like me) and programmers.

In terms of data sharing and staging, we'll be looking at ways Drupal can be used to shared linked data using tagging/metadata, e.g. via RDFa. I'm hoping we can secure additional funding to do that in a more expansive way at some point. I'm having lunch with the former President of the Data Commons Cooperative in a couple weeks to explore that particular model.

severine's picture

Yes indeed so glad the momentum on this is strong. We've already built up a number of great datasets to add in the mix, and dorn has been brainstorming up storm of other collaborators.

For now, here's whats coming on our existing www.serveyourcountryfood.net website.

  1. Grange halls
  2. Incubator farms
  3. Farmer-service providers/ finance providers
  4. Farm hack shop sites.

Very easy to also get:

-Shale Gas deposits -WWOOF Farms-Wwooffusa/organic volunteers -Experiment Stations-USDA -Slaughter Facilities- USDA - State and National Ag Committee members, yellow dots - Rail road/ shipping lines - Watersheds - Bus and Amtrak Routes -link to soil maps - Extension offices - country fairs = Farms for Sale -- link to NEfarmfinder.org and other land link sites.

And we can approach other mappers to cross post their maps ie this national family farm coalition map of

land grabs http://placestories.com/project/8465#!v=about http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/21351

severine's picture


severine's picture

Just about all the old topo maps are free to download:


Plus nautical charts and older maps, many of which include land and air maps:


Plus David Rumsey's amazing collection -- start an account and log in, and you can download high-res on everything:


--> some of these sites may not work in Safari; I have found Chrome is best.

Was this your question?

Jeff Piestrak's picture

I've created a fairly extensive list of ag and food related data sources on my Food Systems Reference guide: http://guides.library.cornell.edu/local_food. General data sources are here, and spatial data/maps here.

We're hoping to migrate the GIS data repository I help maintain at Mann Library, CUGIR, to an open source collaborative platform called Open Geoportal, enabling more seamless data sharing/discovery. It already provides some useful capabilities like web mapping/preview, but we'd like to extend those if possible, possibly in conjunction with GeoNode, which the MetroBoston DataCommon uses.

Here are some additional potentially useful resources specifically related to data management and sharing: -At Cornell we've developed a Research Data Management Service Group (RDMSG) to assist folks here in working with and managing their data. -Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF), non-profit organization dedicated to promoting open data and open content in all their forms - including government data, publicly funded research and public domain cultural content. Projects include: *CKAN, a free open source data management system that makes data accessible by providing tools to streamline publishing, sharing, finding and using data. CKAN is aimed at data publishers (national and regional governments, companies and organizations) wanting to make their data open and available. *Open Data Commons - a set of legal tools helping users provide and use Open Data

Cheers, Jeff

P.S. Attaching a DRAFT late breaking addition to a International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD) conference I'm helping organize this summer at Cornell. The first session of that post-conference event on OPENING ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE IN AGRICULTURE: "A collaborative discussion about how to get started in the area of agricultural data management among partners, presented in a simple, practical way". That and the conference itself might be of interest to some....

Jeff Piestrak's picture

I've been following the work of a Code for America sponsored project called Open Referral, "developing common standards and open platforms for the sharing of community resource directory data — i.e., information about the health, human and social services that are available to people in need." Their process, detailed in their Google Group forum, has been fascinating to watch, and a potential model for developing Open Farm/Open Food data standards....

DGrover's picture

Great conversation here!

There are a lot of tools out there to facilitate open data sharing, interoperability, etc. Thank you Jeff, Sev, Louis, Dorn, for sharing and pointing to many of them.

And there is an ever increasing amount of data sets for many, many different types of data in the food and agriculture space.

My question is how should the process of establishing an Open Data Standard for Food and Ag work? And how does that process scale?

What types of institutional support are necessary? And what can the Farm Hack community provide to this effort?

What is the precedent put forward by other industries for establishing data standards, both in terms of process and results?

What do we want to emulate and what do we want to leave behind? And how do we accomplish this work?