Sowing the seeds of agri-food research e-infrastructure

How can we produce healthy, nutritious food for all, and do so more sustainably in a changing world? Agile, resilient systems are required - and vast amounts of data will have to be shared and processed to shape them, according to an EU-funded project that produced a roadmap for the development of suitable e-infrastructure.

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  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
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  Cyprus
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  Denmark
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  French Polynesia
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  Success Stories

Published: 23 May 2019  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Agriculture & foodAgriculture
EnvironmentClimate & global change
Information societyInformation technology
Research policyHorizon 2020
Countries involved in the project described in the article
France  |  Greece  |  Netherlands
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Sowing the seeds of agri-food research e-infrastructure

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© nd3000 #196149098, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com

Work in the EU-funded project e-ROSA began by outlining a shared vision of the agri-food systems of the future, says Odile Hologne of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research.

The project’s description of possible agri-food reality in 2030 portrays agile, resilient systems empowered by collaboration and shared data to advance the pursuit of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

It underlines the crucial role of open science e-infrastructure – which Hologne describes as a means for users to share, connect and collaborate – in support of the production and exploitation of the knowledge on which this vision relies.

Hologne was the coordinator of e-ROSA, which ended in June 2018, having published its roadmap and initiated what she hopes will be an ongoing process. The project’s work could feed into policymaking on a digital infrastructure to support a sustainable European agricultural sector.

‘Our project was the beginning of something that needs to go on,’ she underlines.

Preparing the ground

‘At the moment, we have no real e-infrastructure in agri-food sciences,’ Hologne observes. While e-infrastructure does exist for research in relevant areas, such as genomics and the environment, these assets are not linked, she adds. The approach championed by e-ROSA involves the provision of technical services to connect these resources.

The project’s objectives were to build a community by bringing the stakeholders together, to take stock of digital resources that already exist and that could be used as building blocks for the proposed e-infrastructure, and then to develop a roadmap for its construction, she explains.

Access to suitable e-infrastructure would help agri-food scientists to access, process and exchange the abundant data that are collected from settings such as farms, fields and forests, by devices as varied as sensors, drones and satellites.

‘We have more and more data,’ Hologne says, ‘but these data are held in silos and therefore not easy to find or use.’

Data should be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable – ‘FAIR’, in short, says Hologne, emphasising one of the principles associated with the principle of open science.

Farms, food and the future

The agri-food sector’s grand challenges, as outlined in the e-ROSA roadmap, include producing healthy and nutritious food for a growing population, doing so more sustainably, equitably and resiliently, and preparing for the implications of climate change. Suitable e-infrastructure for research will place the agri-food sector in a much better position to tackle complex issues such as these, Hologne explains.

Providing such digital infrastructure will facilitate work and collaboration within its virtual community of users in much the same way as a building a road might facilitate transport and exchanges among isolated residents of the physical world, she adds.

To sustain the momentum created in e-ROSA, the partners are notably engaging with the Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change and the construction of the European Open Science Cloud, Hologne reports.

And they are seizing chances to translate theory into practice. ‘We have an EU-funded sister project named AGINFRA PLUS, which is currently in progress and provides us with an opportunity to demonstrate and test some of the ideas that we have in the roadmap,’ Hologne says.

Project details

  • Project acronym: e-ROSA
  • Participants: France (Coordinator), Greece, the Netherlands
  • Project N°: 730988
  • Total costs: € 399 056
  • EU contribution: € 399 056
  • Duration: January 2017 to June 2018

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