Blue Spoons: Sparking Communication About Appropriate Technology Use


Paper by Arun G. Chandrasekhar, Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer, João F. Pugliese, Jonathan Robinson & Frank Schilbach: “An enduring puzzle regarding technology adoption in developing countries is that new technologies often diffuse slowly through the social network. Two of the key predictions of the canonical epidemiological model of technology diffusion are that forums to share information and higher returns to technology should both spur social transmission. We design a large-scale experiment to test these predictions among farmers in Western Kenya, and we fail to find support for either. However, in the same context, we introduce a technology that diffuses very fast: a simple kitchen spoon (painted in blue) to measure out how much fertilizer to use. We develop a model that explains both the failure of the standard approaches and the surprising success of this new technology. The core idea of the model is that not all information is reliable, and farmers are reluctant to develop a reputation of passing along false information. The model and data suggest that there is value in developing simple, transparent technologies to facilitate communication…(More)”.

Designing Data Spaces: The Ecosystem Approach to Competitive Advantage


Open access book edited by Boris Otto, Michael ten Hompel, and Stefan Wrobel: “…provides a comprehensive view on data ecosystems and platform economics from methodical and technological foundations up to reports from practical implementations and applications in various industries.

To this end, the book is structured in four parts: Part I “Foundations and Contexts” provides a general overview about building, running, and governing data spaces and an introduction to the IDS and GAIA-X projects. Part II “Data Space Technologies” subsequently details various implementation aspects of IDS and GAIA-X, including eg data usage control, the usage of blockchain technologies, or semantic data integration and interoperability. Next, Part III describes various “Use Cases and Data Ecosystems” from various application areas such as agriculture, healthcare, industry, energy, and mobility. Part IV eventually offers an overview of several “Solutions and Applications”, eg including products and experiences from companies like Google, SAP, Huawei, T-Systems, Innopay and many more.

Overall, the book provides professionals in industry with an encompassing overview of the technological and economic aspects of data spaces, based on the International Data Spaces and Gaia-X initiatives. It presents implementations and business cases and gives an outlook to future developments. In doing so, it aims at proliferating the vision of a social data market economy based on data spaces which embrace trust and data sovereignty…(More)”.

Modernizing Agriculture Data Infrastructure to Improve Economic and Ecological Outcomes.


Paper by the AGree Initiative and the Data Foundation: “The paper highlights the necessity of data innovation to address a growing number of critical short and long-term food and agricultural issues, including agricultural production, environmental sustainability, nutrition assistance, food waste, and food and farm labor. It concludes by offering four practical options that are effective case studies for data acquisition, management, and use in other sectors.

Given the increasingly dynamic conditions in which the sector operates, the modernization of agricultural data collection, storage, and analysis will equip farmers, ranchers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with tools to adapt, innovate, and ensure a food-secure future.

While USDA has made strides over the years, to truly unlock the potential of data to improve farm productivity and the resilience of rural communities, the department must establish a more effective data infrastructure, which will require addressing gaps in USDA’s mandate and authorities across its agencies and programs.

The white paper explores four options that are effective case studies for data acquisition, management, and use in other sectors:

  1. Centralized Data Infrastructure Operated by USDA
  2. Centralized Data Infrastructure Operated by a Non-Governmental Intermediary
  3. Data Linkage Hub Operated by a Non-USDA Agency in the Federal Government
  4. Contractual Model with Relevant Partners

Each of the models considered offers opportunities for collaboration with farmers and other stakeholders to ensure there are clear benefits and to address shortfalls in the current system. Careful consideration of the trade-offs of each option is critical given the dynamic weather and economic challenges the agriculture sector faces and the potential new economic opportunities that may be unlocked by harnessing the power of data…(More)”.

The digitalisation of agriculture: A literature review and emerging policy issues


OECD Working Paper: “Digitalisation offers the potential to help address the productivity, sustainability and resilience challenges facing agriculture. Evidence on the adoption and impacts of digital agriculture in OECD countries from national surveys and the literature indicates broad use of digital technologies in row crop farms, but less evidence is available on uptake for livestock and speciality crops. Common barriers to adoption include costs (up-front investment and recurring maintenance expenses), relevance and limited use cases, user-friendliness, high operator skill requirements, mistrust of algorithms, and technological risk. National governments have an important role in addressing bottlenecks to adoption, such as by ensuring better information about costs and benefits of various technologies (including intangible benefits such as quality of life improvements); investing in human capital; ensuring appropriate incentives for innovation; serving as knowledge brokers and facilitators of data-sharing to spur inclusive, secure and representative data ecosystems; and promoting competitive markets….(More)”.

The Food Aid Delivery App


Essay by Trish Bendix: “Between 30 and 40 percent of the US food supply goes to waste each year. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 80 billion pounds of food end up in landfills annually. This figure takes on a greater significance in the context of another food crisis: food insecurity. More than 10 percent of US households are food insecure, and the nonprofit Feeding America reports that this number will increase due to the economic and unemployment consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The food waste crisis is not new. Wasted, a 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, recorded Americans’ annual food waste at 40 percent. Horrified by the report’s findings, Leah Lizarondo, a food and health advocate who began her career working in consumer-packaged goods and technology, was inspired to find a solution.

“I tried to figure out why this inefficiency was happening—where the failing was in the supply chain,” Lizarondo says. She knew that consumer-facing businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants were the second-biggest culprits of food waste—behind American households. And even though these businesses didn’t intend to waste food, they lacked the logistics, structures, or incentives to redirect the food surplus to people experiencing food insecurity. Furthermore, because most wasted food is perishable, traditional waste methods didn’t work within the food-banking structure.

“It was so cheap to just throw food in a landfill,” Lizarondo comments. “There’s no legislation [in the United States] that prevents us from doing that, unlike other countries.” For example, France banned food waste in 2016, while Norway has stores that sell food past their sell-by dates, and Asian countries like Japan and South Korea have adopted their own regulations, including the latter charging a fee to citizens for each pound of food waste. Currently, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont are the only US states with legislation enforcing organic waste bans.

In 2016, Lizarondo launched the nonprofit Food Rescue Hero, a technology platform that redirects food waste to the food insecure in cities across America.

Since its launch, Food Rescue Hero has given more than 68 million pounds of food to people in need. Currently, it operates in 12 cities in the United States and Canada, with more than 22,000 drivers volunteering their time….(More)”.

The first answer for food insecurity: data sovereignty


Interview by Brian Oaster: “For two years now, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated almost every structural inequity in Indian Country. Food insecurity is high on that list.

Like other inequities, it’s an intergenerational product of dispossession and congressional underfunding — nothing new for Native communities. What is new, however, is the ability of Native organizations and sovereign nations to collectively study and understand the needs of the many communities facing the issue. The age of data sovereignty has (finally) arrived.

To that end, the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) partnered with the Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative (INAI) and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) to produce a special report, Reimagining Hunger Responses in Times of Crisis, which was released in January.

According to the report, 48% of the more than 500 Native respondents surveyed across the country agreed that “sometimes or often during the pandemic the food their household bought just didn’t last, and they didn’t have money to get more.” Food security and access were especially low among Natives with young children or elders at home, people in fair to poor health and those whose employment was disrupted by the pandemic. “Native households experience food insecurity at shockingly higher rates than the general public and white households,” the report noted.

It also detailed how, throughout the pandemic, Natives overwhelmingly turned to their tribal governments and communities — as opposed to state or federal programs — for help. State and federal programs, like the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, don’t always mesh with the needs of rural reservations. A benefits card is useless if there’s no food store in your community. In response, tribes and communities came together and worked to get their people fed.

Understanding how and why will help pave the way for legislation that empowers tribes to provide for their own people, by using federal funding to build local agricultural infrastructure, for instance, instead of relying on assistance programs that don’t always work. HCN spoke with the Native American Agriculture Fund’s CEO, Toni Stanger-McLaughlin (Colville), to find out more…(More)”.

The Immaculate Conception of Data: Agribusiness, Activists, and Their Shared Politics of the Future


Book by  Kelly Bronson: “Every new tractor now contains built-in sensors that collect data and stream it to cloud-based infrastructure. Seed and chemical companies are using these data, and these agribusinesses are a form of big tech alongside firms like Google and Facebook.

The Immaculate Conception of Data peeks behind the secretive legal agreements surrounding agricultural big data to trace how it is used and with what consequences. Agribusinesses are among the oldest oligopoly corporations in the world, and their concentration gives them an advantage over other food system actors. Kelly Bronson explores what happens when big data get caught up in pre-existing arrangements of power. Her richly ethnographic account details the work of corporate scientists, farmers using the data, and activist “hackers” building open-source data platforms. Actors working in private and public contexts have divergent views on whom new technology is for, how it should be developed, and what kinds of agriculture it should support. Surprisingly, despite their differences, these groups share a way of speaking about data and its value for the future. Bronson calls this the immaculate conception of data, arguing that this phenomenon is a dangerous framework for imagining big data and what it might do for society.

Drawing our attention to agriculture as an important new site for big tech criticism, The Immaculate Conception of Data uniquely bridges science and technology studies, critical data studies, and food studies, bringing to light salient issues related to data justice and a sustainable food system…(More)”.

A paradigm shift in lending to smallholder farmers: the potential of geomapping technology


new report by Small Foundation and Palladium: “… looks at the viability of geomapping as a tool to close the smallholder farmers’ financing gap and improve their livelihoods.

Geomapping is the process of collecting location information, typically with a GPS system and using it to assemble a map. For a technology provider like SyeComp, geomapping means sending field personnel out to map boundaries using a rugged, handheld GPS and then generating detailed maps. The report examines how companies like SyeComp use geomapping data to assess smallholder farmers’ risk and offers recommendations for scaling its use, with the ultimate goal of increasing smallholder farmers’ access to finance and creating pathways out of poverty.

The newly published research also indicates that geomapping technology providers within the agriculture sector are most differentiated by their specific customer segment, offering services directly to smallholder farmers or indirectly through financial institutions (FIs) or agribusinesses.

However, no matter their business model, most offer value to many stakeholders in a given value chain, either through geomapping information for FIs, market pricing information for farmers, or yield estimations for cooperatives. “Because geomapping providers are able to generate value for multiple stakeholders, their use offers a real opportunity to transform the financing landscape for smallholder farmers,” explains Eduardo Tugendhat, Palladium Director of Thought Leadership.

The report highlights how geomapping technology providers add value to the operations of financial institutions, agribusinesses, and cooperatives, and most importantly to the farmers themselves. For FIs, geomapping provides a critical, yet missing piece of the puzzle in a credit assessment—farm size and location. This information allows FIs to better understand potential yield, which they can use to modify a loan value and repayment terms. When providers overlay location information with climate risk maps, even more opportunities open for climate financing.

For agribusinesses such as product buyers, food processors and input suppliers, geomapping offers the added benefits of understanding where a farmer is located to make product collection more efficient, reduce the pestilence risk of certain farms to avoid product loss, and ensure product traceability.

Most importantly, geomapping providers deliver benefits to smallholder farmers by giving them access to locally tailored weather information, market and pricing data, and crop advice that assists farmers in achieving higher yields and getting their crops to the right buyers….(More)”.

Who will benefit from big data? Farmers’ perspective on willingness to share farm data


Paper by Airong Zhang et al : “Agricultural industries are facing a dual challenge of increasing production to meet the growing population with a disruptive changing climate and, at the same time, reducing its environmental impacts. Digital agriculture supported by big data technology has been regarded as a solution to address such challenges. However, realising the potential value promised by big data technology depends upon farm-level data generated by digital agriculture being aggregated at scale. Yet, there is limited understanding of farmers’ willingness to contribute agricultural data for analysis and how that willingness could be affected by their perceived beneficiary of the aggregated data.

The present study aimed to investigate farmers’ perspective on who would benefit the most from the aggregated agricultural data, and their willingness to share their input and output farm data with a range of agricultural sector stakeholders (i.e. other farmers, industry and government statistical organisations, technology businesses, and research institutions). To do this, we conducted a computer-assisted telephone interview with 880 Australian farmers from broadacre agricultural sectors. The results show that only 34 % of participants regarded farmers as the primary beneficiary of aggregated agricultural data, followed by agribusiness (35 %) and government (21 %) as the main beneficiary. The participants’ willingness to share data was mostly positive. However, the level of willingness fluctuated depending on who was perceived as the primary beneficiary and with which stakeholder the data would be shared. While participants reported concerns over aggregated farm data being misused and privacy of own farm data, perception of farmers being the primary beneficiary led to the lowest levels of concerns. The findings highlight that, to seize the opportunities of sustainable agriculture through applying big data technologies, significant value propositions for farmers need to be created to provide a reason for farmers to share data, and a higher level of trust between farmers and stakeholders, especially technology and service providers, needs to be established….(More)”.

Google launches new search tool to help combat food insecurity


Article by Andrew J. Hawkins: “Google announced a new website designed to be a “one-stop shop” for people with food insecurity. The “Find Food Support” site includes a food locator tool powered by Google Maps which people can use to search for their nearest food bank, food pantry, or school lunch program pickup site in their community.

Google is working with non-profit groups like No Kid Hungry and FoodFinder, as well as the US Department of Agriculture, to aggregate 90,000 locations with free food support across all 50 states — with more locations to come.

The new site is a product of Google’s newly formed Food for Good team, formerly known as Project Delta when it was headquartered at Alphabet’s X moonshot division. Project Delta’s mission is to “create a smarter food system,” which includes standardizing data to improve communication between food distributors to curb food waste….(More)”.