CGIAR virtual conference closed with concert to audience of 500 staple food crops
“The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture wanted to highlight the key role that plants play in sustaining our food systems, lives, and, in this case, our audience seats.”
The event was hosted by CGIAR, the world’s largest global agricultural innovation network, and was the first-ever ‘One-CGIAR’ convention, featuring significant contributions from each of its 14 research Centers. The COVID-19 pandemic presented the opportunity to operate virtually this year, making the event more accessible and inclusive, including to plants! The gathering focused on leveraging the latest digital tools and technologies to help create more resilient, adaptive food systems in the time of ecological and health crises.
The CGIAR convention on Big Data in Agriculture aimed to explore the interactions between natural and digital ecosystems. Given social distancing and travel restrictions, who better for the closing acts to perform to than an audience of plants?
“The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture wanted to highlight the key role that plants play in sustaining our food systems, lives, and, in this case, our audience seats,” said Brian King, who leads the Big Data Platform. “By bringing these crops into the digital realm as virtual convention audience members, we’re bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘digitally-enabled food systems,’” King joked. “Next year, it could be goats.”
However, the lack of a live human audience has more serious implications too. In his closing ceremony address, King said, “This event has highlighted the pressing need for digital innovation, collaboration and inclusive development, which we feel even more acutely due to the physical distance we must maintain due to the current global health crisis.”
In the spirit of collective global action, the concert was a collaborative project by artists from local Caleñan music orchestra La Mambanegra, who performed live, 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 over the past few months, 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.
After the event, the plants, totaling over 500 beans, cassava, forages, and plantain varieties were returned safely to the plant nursery at the Cali, Colombia campus of the Alliance for Bioversity International and CIAT (the Alliance)—perhaps slightly more digitally savvy.
November 5, 2020
BIG DATA Team
CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture