From data to impact: a roadmap towards a data-driven agri & food sector

Earlier this year, DTL, TKI Agri & Food, and TIFN conducted a survey among stakeholders in the Agri & Food sector in collaboration with DTL partner EdgeLeap. The survey aimed to make an inventory of current and future practices and needs for data storage, handling and analysis. The outcomes uncovered emerging trends across different sectors and organisations.

“This inventory is important for us because it identifies the areas we need to work on. In the nutrition & health area, data generation will intensify and we don’t have the means yet to handle this effectively and create business from it,” says project leader Rolf Bos of TIFN.

“The potential of good data practices is evident among agri & food stakeholders and the field is certainly moving forward regarding technology aspects. Nevertheless, translation of technology into business and societal benefits is still lagging,” says Marijana Radonjic, co-founder and CEO of EdgeLeap. The survey outcomes uncovered emerging trends across different sectors (health and nutrition, animal feed, plant breeding, crop and seed production, biobased products) and organisations (respondents from 14 academic institutions, 9 companies, 6 research institutes and 5 contract research organisations).

The relevance of good data practices is evident among all stakeholders: 97% of respondents said that optimal data management is a top priority for their organisation. Nevertheless, the strategy and investment priorities to achieve this goal differ notably between organisations. For instance, 88% of industry representatives will increase investment in data management next year, covering the full spectrum of solutions: from data storage infrastructure, to analytics software, to workforce. In contrast, only 27% of academic institutions plans to significantly invest, primarily in data storage infrastructure. Differences between academia and industry are also evident in collaboration preferences: industry turns to service companies for data-related tasks, whereas academics rather collaborate among each other.


Regarding challenges and opportunities ahead, one of the major flags raised is about data integration and interoperability. The good news is that technology aspects of this challenge can be largely addressed by providing guidelines, standards and best practices. This process is well underway through various DTL-community associated initiatives that raise awareness of existing programmes, enable demonstrators and training sessions. A more complex aspect is an apparent communication gap between different disciplines, requiring a culture change and community building around data science in order to move the field forward.

“To our surprise, societal and business aspects such as ‘Strengthening evidence for food safety’ or ‘Better decisions on future investments’ are not yet recognised as the key objectives for implementing data-driven processes,” stresses Radonjic. “There is still much to be gained by leveraging data science innovation to achieve societal and economic impact. At EdgeLeap, we are fully committed to this goal while working with our clients in life science industry and healthcare, and we hope to help accelerate this transition in the Agri & Food sector as well, in partnership with DTL, TKI Agri & Food and TIFN.”

To get insight into full survey results, please contact Ruben Kok.

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