Building Data Interoperability in Agriculture

Farm Foundation aims to lead a coalition of like-minded partners in scaling the practical application of the digital exchange of information in ag production systems and across the value chain.

What is data interoperability?

Data interoperability is the ability to exchange and make use of data between devices and systems. When systems interoperate, the infrastructure in place for innovations that matter and system users, programmers, and others don’t get bogged down in trying to make each systems “talk” with each other.  

Common data field structures and language frameworks enable us to capture, communicate and analyze information shared between computers and applications. Existing frameworks of interoperable descriptive languages are used in myriad ways to communicate information between online parties.

Addressing data interoperability in agriculture

In agriculture, interoperable descriptive languages and data formats are not very common today. The main barrier to the digitization of food and agriculture has been the lack of commonly shared structural and semantic interoperability. In many parts of the supply chain, companies are already maintaining expensive databases and collecting large amounts of ultimately disparate data. The industry is full of single point solutions that get particular types of data from point A to point B, but lacks the framework to connect those solutions and bring all that data together in a way that maintains data sovereignty and appropriate confidentiality. 

Additionally, there are compliance and regulatory challenges that must be met across the supply chain and there are a host of industry-specific claims (e.g. attestation of claims for animal health, water quality, labor, etc.). By building on a framework that enables automation and validation through interoperable tools, we can significantly reduce the compliance burden.  

An open source framework allows for the most useful tools to be developed that can then be made available to actors throughout the supply chain, giving them access to important innovations that help them more cost-effectively and efficiently manage, maintain and productively use their datawhich makes that data much more valuable.   

Our work

As a first phase, we are actively working to solve a number of data gaps in the pork supply chain that have the potential to improve efficiency, profitability, transparency or sustainability. We held an event storming in November 2020 that identified some of these gaps, and in March 2021 we co-hosted our first hackathon to develop prototype open source code to address one such gap: modeling an “Advance Ship Notification” (ASN) for pigs via the Trellis API Framework as a two-way, real-time communication channel coordinating a farmer shipping pigs, a trucker hauling pigs, and a processor receiving pigs. Peek under the hood and see what’s been done so far in GitHub.

Additionally, we are applying the model developed for the pork industry to address data interoperability in the regenerative ranching space. Our latest event storming, The Regenerative Ranching Data Round Up, identified challenges holding back efforts to align grazing practices with environmental goals. Challenges around soil data and its possible use in certification efforts will be the likely focus of our next Hackathon. Farm Foundation is seeking partners to help take that next step.

Future development of this and other coding solutions is planned, and we are currently seeking additional funding to sustain this effort. This highly technical work has the potential to make a real, practical impact on the way data is shared across the pork supply chain, while also developing a replicable model for other commodity sectors. Farm Foundation, as an objective force, is uniquely positioned to bring together people and resources from throughout the food and ag supply chain, aligned with the technical engineering capabilities to create real code that provides real solutions in a way that will positively impact all stakeholders.

Join the effort

If your organization is interested in partnering with us on this important work, please contact us.

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