Remember the lettuce/ source code comparison? So yes, that head of lettuce will only be able to be eaten by a few people. It doesn’t scale. But the information about how it’s grown does.
Farmers are interacting with data all the time, we just don’t call it data. But the nutrients in the soil the lettuce is grown in, the techniques used to maximize efficiency while creating a healthy product for people and the land—that’s all data. The question is how we get it.
And it’s a question of what we do once we have this data. In the age of “Big Data,” software analytics are able to discern micro and macro trends like never before. This might sound esoteric, but what this means is we can better understand our food system. We can understand problems and solutions as they emerge. We can understand the most effective practices by location and use these as the starting point for innovation.
Agriculture can be open source.
Although our bank account has a total of $50 in it (thanks Connie!) we have our first major investor, Socrata. The data firm has provided not only use of their software but also Colin’s skills in data architectural design.
So what does this provide? We can track any data variable across any range of geography. We can track charcoal results in a 5 ft x 5 ft test plot on one farm on Orcas Island or meta trends of charcoal results across literally thousands of farms in North America. We can understand the most economical production method in a zip code or a continent. In this case the options are indeed endless. It’s just a matter of how we get the data.