Billions of dollars worth of perishable produce at risk, due to lack of information and planning
“Agriculture has been one of the major UK industries affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Although the challenges of having to maintain an adequate food supply and its workforce already existed, the pandemic and lockdown has increased the pressure on the already fragile sector dependent on seasonal workforce. It has been clearly demonstrated with the fact that the UK had to fly in Romanian farm pickers last week to support with the harvest season. Worldwide, there has been an increased pressure on the farming sector to mobilise workforce, right in the midst of what is usually a very busy harvest season.
Farmers have been unable to access intelligence and planning in their sector while facing covid-19, unlike other critical industries and it has clearly jeopardised the food sector as tonnes of produce are at the risk of rotting in farms. Already billions of dollars worth of food is reported to be going to waste as producers in the US are facing a massive surplus of highly perishable produce including vegetables, fruits and milk. While we are battling the covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we prevent a subsequent famine due to negligence. The lack of critical data from the sector has meant that agriculture has slipped from the agenda of governments while tackling the current crisis.
In order to address these challenges better in the future, governments and policy makers need to introduce cohesive and inclusive open data policies to improve the practices of farmers and to maximise potential. By working with farmers and the food sector to implement open data practices, we can better plan and visualise the farming progress, create models for understanding the different scenarios, and implement better planning and coordination to keep the food sector robust and engaging.
The lessons from covid-19 should be taken very seriously as we can clearly see the pitfalls in maintaining business as usual. The farming and agriculture sector is perhaps one of the most critical components of national security, and it is high time we bring technology and AI into it.”
Andre Laperriere, the executive director of Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN)