An Invitation from Ankita Raturi of the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Guest post by Ankita Raturi

We invite members of the Refresh Working Group and food system stakeholders to come together and build open agricultural technologies that support our public agricultural research and our transition to more sustainable solutions. For more information, visit the GOAT blog. Applications close March 15.

Last December, at the launch of the Refresh Food + Tech: From Soil to Supper report, the Refresh Working Group (RWG) began exploring the need for participatory methods and community initiatives to give food system stakeholders a voice in the development of food and agricultural technologies.

Community-driven development @GOAT

The Gathering for Open Agricultural Technologies (GOAT) is one such initiative. Last year, we convened a group of farmers, developers, researchers, and food system stakeholders to coordinate and initiate new development, align our technologies with actual users, and create a roadmap. The inaugural GOAT (May 2018) was an “unconference” designed to encourage participants to take ownership of the gathering and collaboratively set the tone for our community.

We believe “[t]he technologies that produce our food and the data about our food system should be public, and enable control by the farms and farmers that produce it. Together, we can collectively address the problems which prevent the creation of advanced, high quality open technology and its adoption.”

But to succeed, community-driven development can’t end at annual meetings. We have a thriving online community, with discussion forums and instant messaging community rooms. In addition, our model invites GOAT members to hold their own local events. At the first GOAT hackathon, our main focus was on connecting empirical nutritional food data (Our-Sci) to farm management practices (FarmOS). This hackathon gave our community the opportunity to begin developing data-driven tools for farmers to improve their environment, farm practice, soil health, and food quality.

GOAT:Hack @ USDA-ARS

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agency, where we focus on “finding solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day from field to table.” Currently, as a post-doc at the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Lab, I am working with a team of scientists to develop technical infrastructure crucial to agricultural research. For example, we build farmer-facing decision support tools, data management tools to enable large-scale participatory research, and geoinformatics tools to improve people’s experience of interfacing with government data, models, tools, and services.

The Challenge

Public agricultural research is crucial to our understanding the environmental, economic, social, and agronomic challenges at the heart of our transition to sustainable solutions. The USDA has a cavernous dungeon of data collected from more than 50 years of research. While these data are public, we have fragmented data silos that are not interoperable or easily accessible. Data in these systems are stored in a way that is not flexible, maintainable, modular, and scalable.

How can we, as open agriculture researchers, farmers, and technologists develop the technical infrastructure to enable sustainable agriculture and food system research? How can we gather to unlock the potential of public ag research?

The Mission

  • Bring together a multidisciplinary cohort of researchers, designers, developers, and agricultural practitioners working on public agricultural technologies.
  • Enable open access to data and tools resulting from public agricultural research.
  • Develop open source technical infrastructure that enables research, adoption, and evaluation of sustainable agricultural practices.

Supporting Information

When: April 4 & 5 2019
Where: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Maryland
For more information about the GOAT:Hack @ USDA-ARS: http://goatech.org/goathack-usda-ars/
For direct link to the application form: https://goo.gl/forms/dDhHNPoAHhjFak0l2

For GOAT tweet regarding event: https://twitter.com/GOATech_org/status/1098641383404044293
For Ankita’s tweet regarding event: https://twitter.com/sudokita/status/1098642390766759936

Diana Huang
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