Giving Compass' Take:

• Food Tank highlights tools to recognize innovations changing agriculture and improving technology access worldwide for farmers through AI and Big Data.

• How can donors invest in big data for agriculture? How can you back more scientific research?

• Learn about the role of big data in sustainable intensification.

On fields across the world, phones, tablets, drones, and other technologies are changing how food is grown. Through these devices, artificial intelligence (AI)—technology able to perform tasks that require human intelligence—may help farmers use the techniques they already know and trust on a bigger scale. And Big Data—data sets that reveal telling patterns about growth, yield, weather, and more—may help farmers make better decisions before crises strike.

According to the report Refresh: Food + Tech, From Soil to Supper released in 2018, AI and Big Data may help produce more food, use less water, limit resource consumption, redirect food waste, and lower food prices—all while improving the lives and incomes of farmers and food producers. “Recent advances have the potential for big breakthroughs in the ways we grow, store, transport, distribute, and consume food,” says the Refresh Report. “From production to consumption, this digital transformation, in tandem with new ecological services, will prove critical to reducing greenhouse gasses, addressing the multiple causes of food insecurity, and feeding the planet in the 21st century.”

But AI and Big Data may also present new challenges and risks for farmers, says former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Data gathering may present challenges if only certain farmers have the connectivity and funding to collect and comprehend the data. AI presents similar challenges, as private ownership and development in AI may equip entrepreneurs, innovators, and companies with the power to control who owns, uses, and benefits from these technologies—for or against equity in the food system.

Read the full article on the 21 projects democratizing data for farmers by Katherine Walla at Food Tank.