Best of 2020: Our favorite highlights
2020 has truly been a surprising and challenging year.
COVID-19 presented the BIG DATA Platform a unique opportunity to “walk the talk” on agile, adaptive, digitally-enabled collective action. Despite the challenges, we also saw much opportunity in how this crisis might accelerate the digital agriculture revolution to transform the global food system for the better.
We have learned that global food, supply, and value chains are significantly more vulnerable than we thought they were. Identifying vulnerabilities and discovering solutions will be key, but we also need new models for operationalizing the solutions that are more inclusive, more resilient.
We saw how to apply digital innovation, both in terms of how to source and foster it, even if we are in lockdown, witnessing an incredible diversity of applied ideas for building better more inclusive food systems.
When we look back on 2020, we may well see this pandemic as a triumph of open, global data-driven collaboration around a common problem. The rapid mobilization of governments, private industry, non-profits, and research organizations to align research and development efforts for therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics is unprecedented.
On-the-ground implementation is changing fast in the time of COVID, dynamic digital ecosystems start with the end-user, translating technical language to make it accessible is key to impact. Open, global collaborations around food security are the way forward. We must leverage this ocean of high-frequency monitoring data to keep building dynamic, open capabilities.
Admittedly, at times it has not been easy. For all the agile, global connections that we have been able to build, it is easy to feel isolated, easy to feel discouraged. We must remember, with adaptable digital tools, we can create encouraging spaces, we can connect with one another, and we can organize around collective action in ways that only digital can do.
In that spirit, we’ll sign off this year with a list of some of our favorite 2020 achievements — along with an accompanying soundtrack!
RAPID RESPONSE GRANTS: CATALYZING INNOVATIVE RESPONSES TO FOOD SYSTEM SHOCKS
In response to the unfolding food security issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, CGIAR’s Platform for Big Data in Agriculture awarded three grants to agile, big-data enabled projects working to tackle food system challenges.
Explore the Rapid Response winners below
DISCUSSION SERIES: BIG DATA SOLUTIONS TO COVID-19 IMPACTS
While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a slew of challenges for farmers and consumers alike, surprising opportunities have begun to appear that could pave the way for a new and more resilient global food system. Across several sessions, we spoke to the wider development community to map direct impacts of covid-19 across food value chains. You can read the key takeaways from our digital forum on COVID-19, big data, and food security, and watch the recordings below.
2020 BIG DATA CONVENTION
The 2020 virtual CGIAR Convention on Big Data in Agriculture: Digital Dynamism for Adaptive Food Systems, held 19-21 October, was the first One CGIAR convention. More than 1300 participants from across the globe came together to examine how digital transformation has unfolded in global security in response to this year’s shocks, exploring food system resilience and highlighting how digital tools and technologies can help us to sense, respond, and (re)build better systems. The event also highlighted how CGIAR’s 13 global research Centers are employing dynamic digital methods to combat current food security challenges.
Watch a glimpse of digital dynamism across CGIAR Centers
2020 INSPIRE CHALLENGE
Seven groundbreaking, big data projects were selected as winners of CGIAR’s 2020 Inspire Challenge at the convention. Winners were chosen from a group of 15 finalists projects–the largest cohorts of Inspire Challenge finalists and pilot awards to date. In light of this year’s food system shocks due to the recent pandemic, the 2020 Inspire Challenge evaluation included specific COVID-19 response, recovery, and resilience metrics added to the judging rubric.
DATA QUALITY & MANAGEMENT
NEWLY-LAUNCHED ANALYTICAL SPACE FOR RESEARCHERS TO COLLABORATE REMOTELY
GARDIAN expanded on its legacy as a trusted intermediary in the data ecosystem. The data portal currently points to approximately 182,000 publications and 28,000 datasets from more than 30 institutional publications as well as data repositories across all thirteen CGIAR Centers and eleven genebanks, and a growing number of institutional partners. Through its newly-launched analytical environment, Collaborative GARDIAN Labs (CG Labs), the GARDIAN ecosystem now allows users to create team spaces with interlinked modules so that members can communicate and work together to find and save data, develop and share code and data securely, begin building data-to-model pipelines, and collaborate on analyses remotely and asynchronously via either private or public virtual spaces.
GENDER & BIG DATA
BIG DATA is working to enable gender data to be leveraged to its full potential to improve our understanding of relationships between gender, agriculture, and rapidly digitizing economies and societies where CGIAR works. The 2020 virtual CGIAR Convention on Big Data in Agriculture featured a gender track—three sessions that took deep dives into big data topics relating to the empowerment of women in agriculture: gender data, non-traditional big data for women’s empowerment, and human-centered design and gender. Additionally, in 2020 the Platform incorporated additional, rigorous gender-sensitive selection criteria in the Inspire Challenge and Rapid Response Grants, improving our processes for inclusivity in agricultural innovation.
Watch sessions below
YOUTH IN DATA INITIATIVES
At the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, we believe youth are integral to shaping a sustainable food future and it is our goal to equip them to develop new solutions, leveraging their own perspectives, and to provide them with access to the agricultural research sector and pathways for them to contribute to the transformation needed. As a part of that commitment, each year we host a Youth in Data Workshop alongside our annual CGIAR convention on Big Data in Agriculture. This year we received more than 600 applications for the Youth in Data Workshop and enrolled 130 Delegates from 49 countries for a week of learning and collaboration around digital agriculture and big data approaches to agricultural development.
TO ADVANCE THE GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEM
In September, CGIAR and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced a collaboration with global research partnership CGIAR to uncover insights about food security challenges, now intensified due to COVID-19. By applying HPE’s Memory-Driven Computing Sandbox to CGIAR’s data sets, HPE will help CGIAR accelerate solutions to these global challenges by enabling modeling of food systems. Read more.
With the aim of improving Malawian farmers’ access to agronomic information, and ultimately increasing yields and improving food security, the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture, Michigan State University, and Viamo came together to explore alternative pathways for disseminating extension messages. The project, conducted under the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development-funded AfricaRISING project and with support from the Partnership for Green Growth and the Global Goals (P4G), leveraged public, private, and non-profit capabilities to test the relationship between targeted agronomy messages through interactive voice response (IVR) and better decision making on farms. Read more.
WITH COLLECTIVE ACTION, HERE COMES THE SUN
This cross-continent collaboration was created to close out our 2020 virtual convention, featuring local Caleñan music orchestra La Mambanegra — who performed live to a full house of plants — with recorded contributions from Indian folk/fusion band Swarathma, and Kenyan singer-songwriter Nina Ogot.
The song was arranged by multiple Grammy-winning percussionist Richie Flores. Through multiple Zoom calls, the groups worked on a rendition of the Beatles’ “Here comes the sun”—an apt anthem for an agriculture convention examining how to (re)build a global food system to be more resilient to shocks, like that of the recent pandemic.
Wishing you a wonderful end to 2020, and a brighter year ahead.
The BIG DATA Team