3 sources of demand for big data in biodiversity innovation

Margaret Ann Tutwiler, the Director General of Bioversity International, discusses the importance of big data tools for supporting agricultural diversity initiatives.

Babara Well, Director General of the International Potato Center (CIP) speaking during session.


The 2018 CGIAR Big Data in Agriculture Convention in Nairobi provided an opportunity for agricultural scientists to come together with their counterparts from the world of data science to brainstorm ideas for applying the tools big data to agriculture.

During the Thursday session DGs on Data, the Platform welcomed CGIAR center Director Generals Anthony Simmons (ICRAF), Ann Tutwiler (CIP), Jimmy Smith (ILRI) and Babara Wells (Bioversity International) on stage to discuss the role of data in the future of agricultural innovation.

Margaret Ann Tutwiler, the Director General of Bioversity International, led a discussion about the importance of big data tools for supporting agricultural diversity initiatives.

She identified three sources of demand for big data in biodiversity innovation.


Business operations are becoming more data-driven than ever before. Therefore, corporations are becoming more reliant on big data analytics to come up with solutions that would make the most business sense. For those involved in the agricultural sector, big data sets on biodiversity are among the most critical.

These include, among others, life science companies and retailers. These organizations use the information derived from big data sets on biodiversity to identify things such as the where and how to obtain the more diverse produce. Furthermore, this information is used in decision-making on items such as logistics to get customers more exotic foods and push up profitability.

Policy Makers

There are various environmental, socio-economic and political issues that are exerting greater pressure on the biosphere than ever before. Tutwiler mentions the 2018 World Economic Forum report on global risks which mention some of these issues. These include natural disasters, extreme weather events, large-scale involuntary migration, and failure of urban planning.

All of these items present Big Data points that are essential to policymakers such as governments and aid agencies. As the report explains, they need to understand the interconnectedness and how they impact the planet’s biodiversity. To achieve this, they need to work with institutions such as Bioversity since they have the expertise needed to make such analyses. This, therefore, triggers the demand for such Big Data.


Every investor wants to make investments in areas that will bring them the most returns with minimal risk. That is not exactly an easy thing to do especially given that almost all sectors of the economy are interlinked in one way or another. Consequently, there are several Big Data points that have to be identified and analyzed to drive the decision-making process.

Tutwiler argues that both personal and institutional investors, therefore, seek to make the most of this by seeking the services of Big Data collection and analysis firms. Furthermore, most institutions are increasingly developing in-house human and infrastructural resources needed to crunch this data to gain a competitive edge. This trend is only poised to increase as more firms leverage on Big Data for market growth and dominance.

Oct 17, 2018

Roseleen Nzioka

Youth in Data media delegate at Platform's 2018 Convention

Nairobi, Kenya

This is one of a series of blogs written by one of our Youth in Data media delegates who participated in the 2nd Big Data in Agriculture Convention in Nairobi, Kenya on 3-5 October 2018.