(3Bl Media/Justmerans) - Weâve heard a lot about how the ubiquitous and free flow of information is going to improve our quality of life, through smart phones, smart grids, smart cities and smart cars. Thatâs all well and good, but what about basic questions like can I get enough to eat?
Well it turns out, big data has some good news for us there, too.
Ramez Naam, in his book The Infinite Resource, described some cutting edge agricultural projects with yields anywhere from ten to a hundred times the norm. Using this as a benchmark, Naam surmises that we will have plenty of food to feed ten billion mouths. Agronomist Kenneth Cassman from the University of Nebraska, took this idea to the work boots on the ground level when he and his colleagues unveiled the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas last month at the Water for Food conference in Seattle where the theme was âHarnessing the Data Revolution to Ensure Food and Water Security From Field to Global Scales.â
The map contains site-specific data that shows where actual yields fall short of their potential due to any number of factors including drought, soil, and farming practices. Big Agro companies, like Monsanto and Syngenta, who sponsored the conference, can use their data to target development and marketing of specific products. But the data can also be used to help small farmers who number over 500 million and produce half the worldâs food.