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Platform for Big Data in Agriculture

Data has become a valuable global commodity. But it is much more than simply information: in expert hands, it is intelligence.

Already, analysts are finding ways to turn big data — the immense stocks of information collected in computers worldwide — into an invaluable resource for planning and decision-making. It is helping accelerate the development of robust responses to some of the most pressing challenges of our time: climate change/variability, food insecurity and malnutrition, and environmental degradation. It is transforming the world of genomics and crop breeding and revolutionizing disciplines from climate modelling to agronomy. It is helping refine policies and improve lives.

The smart and effective use of data will be one of the most important tools for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Big data represents an unprecedented opportunity to find new ways of reducing hunger and poverty, by applying data-driven solutions to ongoing research for development impact.

What we do: Transforming rural livelihoods with the power of information

CGIAR is uniquely positioned to be a thought leader on the use of big data and information technology in agriculture to drive equitable rural development.

The ultimate goal of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture is to harness the capabilities of big data to accelerate and enhance the impact of international agricultural research. This 6-year platform (2017–2022) will provide global leadership in organizing open data, convening partners to develop innovative ideas, and demonstrating the power of big data analytics through inspiring projects.

Find out more about CGIAR’s Open Access Policy, ratified in late 2013 by all 15 CGIAR Research Centers.

How we do it: A platform to Organize, Convene, Inspire


Support and improve data generation, open access, and management

This platform will provide support to CGIAR and partners to fully comply with open data / open access principles, to address technical and organizational challenges, and to enable researchers to strengthen data analytical capacity and develop practical, big data-driven use-cases in a coordinated way.


Collaborate and convene around big data and agricultural development

This platform will bring together big data practitioners, in partnership with global private sector brands, local upstart companies, universities, and others, in spaces that will encourage interaction and produce innovative new ideas to solve development problems.


Inspire others to use big data to deliver development impact

This platform will create opportunities for pilot projects aimed to solve core development challenges and help scale them out. Using big data analytics and ICTs, we can provide unprecedented multi-disciplinary data to researchers, deliver information to farmers, monitor the state of agriculture and food security in real time, and inform critical national, regional and global policies and decisions.

Our impact

In Colombia’s Córdoba Department, 170 rice growers with 1,800 hectares followed a recommendation not to plant in one of two growing seasons and thus avoided losing money they would have spent to cover production costs. The recommendation was based on climate simulations carried out by CIAT, which projected low yields under expected weather conditions, including lower rainfall and reduced solar radiation.

CIAT has started the sequencing of the first entire global crop collection and scientists are about a year away from defining cassava’s pan-genome to home-in on the genes responsible for increasing yields, boosting protein content, and improving resistance to pests, and they’ll even be able to breed cassava in silico (on the computer) to establish the most effective combinations of parent plants to produce offspring with the most valuable traits.

CIAT and its partners, in 2015, for the first time, used the models to show the impact of climate change on staple crops, and when changes in policy and practice need to take place in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Colombia, Terra-i revealed massive deforestation that had doubled in five years – twice the official rates being used by the government at the time. This information was used by the Colombian government to change its official deforestation estimates and set new targets to tackle deforestation.

A global partnership

The 15 CGIAR Research Centers and 12 Research Programs are partners in the Platform, alongside 47 external partners ranging international institutions, universities to private companies. They cover public to private, developing to developed country, and analytics to ICT deployment.

AkiraChix | Amazon | Arizona State University | ASARECA | Battelle Memorial Institute | Bayes Impact | CABI-GODAN | CEO of Novogene Bioinformatics Technology Co. Ltd | Columbia University | CSIRO | Data-Pop Alliance | Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) | First Mile Geo | GBIF | GeoPoll | Global Trust | Google | IBM | IIASA – King’s College London – McKinsey & Co. – Michigan State University – NIAB – Oak Ridge National Lab – Penn State University | Purdue | Rothamsted | Royal Holloway University of London | SpatialDev | Stanford University | SUPAGRO | UC Davis | UN Global Pulse | UNESCO-IHE | University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland (HEIG-VD) | University of Florida | University of Nebraska | Washington State University | WUR | World Bank, Agriculture.

Research updates

Big Data in Your Plate | CIAT Blog Science to Cultivate Change