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Digital agriculture: submitting a report on the data portal for sustainable and connected agriculture

Delivery of the agricultural data portal report, S.Le Foll, A. Lemaire, JM Bournigal ©Cheick Saidou/French Ministry of Agricultu

01/11/2017

In April 2016, Stéphane Le Foll, Thierry Mandon and Axelle Lemaire tasked Irstea President Jean-Marc Bournigal with preparing for the implementation of an agricultural data portal supporting connected and sustainable agriculture for and by farmers. This report was delivered to the ministers on January 10, 2017.

Along with the rest of the economy, agriculture is now connected. There will be a transition that the Government intends to support, particularly through the development of agro-ecology for the farming industry, in accordance with the aims of the Law for a Digital Republic and the National Research Strategy.

The report is one of the 8 actions set out by the Agriculture - Innovation 2025 Plan launched on February 29, 2016 to deal with the challenges of multi-performance by taking full advantage of the creativity and energy of the farming industry. It also follows on from the Agricultural Machinery and Agriculture - Innovation 2025 Project and should satisfy the keen interest in this project displayed by the industry. The report is the result of a partnership with participants from the farming and IT industries and is based on a study of similar initiatives across France, Europe and the world. It was delivered to Stéphane Le Foll and Axelle Lemaire on January 10, 2017.

The work highlights French and European stakeholders' genuine expectation of a rapid implementation of a portal aiming to promote and pool largely fragmented agricultural data. Given the global movement to concentrate available data, it is important for the French agriculture industry to claim ownership of its knowledge. 

4 main recommendations

The recommendations for implementing the portal can be summarized as follows:
  • A portal organized around a single window for data and 4 other complementary functions. The window will provide access to data sets with inventory, SEO, search and cross-referencing functions. A consolidated system of databases and an "intermediary" approach are recommended to facilitate rapid and effective use of the data sets. A digital store offering simple processing tools for data suppliers, a cloud providing data storage for contributing farmers, a space dedicated to good practice exchanges, ideas and an overview of decision-making support tools will help users discover and evaluate the data.
  • A shared portal, governed by the farming industry. In order for the agricultural community to make good use of the portal and rally around the project, it has to be given ownership of it. For this reason, the portal will be governed by a consortium involving several economic stakeholders from the agricultural community (cooperatives, banks, insurance companies, investment structures, etc.) that will be supported by a simplified joint stock company (SAS). A large strategic focus committee made up of farming representatives (unions, agricultural suppliers, researchers, government ministers, IT specialists) will guarantee conditions of use and ethics for the portal as well as encouraging an innovative environment.
  • Data governance and appropriate legal protection with General Conditions (CG) for the data repository and General User Conditions (CGU) for users of the data will provide the legal framework for data management, protecting the anonymity of the data and their sources.
  • The portal will be based around services and the creation of an innovative environment (calls for projects, start-up competitions, hackathons, etc.) making full use of the tools set up as part of "French Tech" by the Minister of State for Digital Affairs, encouraging full use of the tool by the farming industry and contributions from farmers.

This realistic projection provides for the fully operational implementation of the portal based on these recommendations within 3 years of the project launch, with a construction phase of one year and a launch phase spread over two years.

While the project is infused with the hope of the agricultural community for digital innovations and economic development, its success will be built on the key challenges of excellence - specifically, the ability to find relevant data, controlling technical risks (anonymity, security) and image, and controlling costs and the economic model.

It will also depend on the commitment of public authorities to ensure open access to data and "French Tech" tools to support the development of the innovative environment, a key part of the project. Finally, the project will hinge on the engagement of the farming community - the involvement of agricultural organizations and data suppliers - on whom the whole project ultimately rests.

5 decisions relating to maintenance

In relation to maintenance, the ministers have decided: 

  • That the report will be presented to the industry during the next Higher Council for Orientation of the Agricultural and Food Economy in order to share the challenges of open data with the whole industry. 
  • To create a ministerial delegation for digital affairs within the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. In partnership with the Secretary of State for Digital Affairs and Innovation and the Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research, its aim will be to organize the accessibility of public ministry data and support the industry in implementing the data sharing portal. 
  • The project will be launched by an initial "Vision Camp" during the next International Agricultural Show. This will be held as a workshop aiming to create a collective vision of the main shared challenges and will involve agricultural and non-agricultural stakeholders from across the industry.
  • These initial specific actions will encourage the industry to design the portal, and will make it possible to support future agricultural start-ups through "French Tech".
  • Once the French portal has been rolled out, attempts will be made to scale it up to a European level to generalize the initiative and ensure it receives the traction it deserves. The challenge is large and it deserves collective engagement at all levels to strengthen the leadership and reach of French and European agriculture throughout the world.

Download the full report Data portal for innovation in agriculture

Download the report summary

Read the press release from the Ministry of Agriculture

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