Agrimetrics, one of the government’s four Innovate UK agri-tech catalyst centres, has launched an agri-food data market to address the problem of remunerating data owners, while encouraging sector innovation that uses aggregated industry data.

The Rothamsted-based centre’s chief executive, Dr David Flanders, says data-driven technologies have great potential in helping agriculture achieve the sustainable intensification challenge of feeding a growing world population with finite resources.

“Agriculture has a big data problem – it desperately needs to improve productivity and sustainability. Data-driven technologies promise solutions to these challenges, but unfortunately, many of these promises have been hollow,” he observes.

“The problem is two-pronged. Agri-businesses are – often justifiably – reluctant to share their data. Meanwhile, organisations lack the information they need to build new solutions. This has prevented meaningful innovation. A McKinsey report across all sectors shows that data-driven manufacturers have increased production by 50% and cut waste by 20%.”

As a result, Agrimetrics – the National Agri-Tech Centre for Innovation in Data Science – is developing its Agri-Food Data Marketplace to allow data owners to share and monetise their data securely, while at the same time making it easier for data consumers to find the information they need. Agrimetrics will help data owners list, price and set permissions for their data, with the online market providing a shop window for potential users. The users would pay a subscription fee with data originators rewarded via a revenue share model.

Agrimetrics has worked with the AHDB, DEFRA and the NFU over the project, as well as The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Soil Grids, The Met Office, Natural England, The Environment Agency and others. Microsoft is a strategic partner.

As an example, Airbus has already made satellite-derived field attributes – its Verde suite – available through the Data Marketplace. This information can help calculate irrigation requirements and with the development of methods to counter crop lodging. BASF has already used this data to develop a water stewardship tool – wHen2gO – giving field-specific guidance on when to spray oilseed rape. The tool simplifies a complex regulatory area, showing how data-driven tools can improve sustainability and farm profitability. Fresh produce company Barfoots has used the data to create a predictive harvest model that helps streamline its international supply chains.

“Robotics, artificial intelligence, carbon farming, predictive models, farm-to-fork traceability and natural capital accounting are often highlighted when discussing the future of agriculture,” says Dr Matthew Smith, Agrimetrics chief product officer, who joined recently from Microsoft Solutions. “However, they fundamentally depend on the ability to easily exchange data. This requires new linked-data supply-chains that seamlessly connect data-producers and data-consumers throughout the food and farming system. The Agri-food Data Marketplace is the closest yet to making this a reality.”