IBM, Clemson, Linux Foundation join forces for sustainable crop information platform

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, IBM, and Linux Foundation are working together to provide farmers around the world with educational information on how to grow crops sustainably.
Written by Jonathan Greig, Contributor

IBM has joined forces with the Linux Foundation and the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service and AgStack Foundation on a new project seeking to provide farmers with detailed information about how to grow crops sustainably and deal with the effects of climate change. 

IBM developers began working with Clemson researchers through the Call For Code program, which IBM created as a way to support people building innovative technology solutions to persistent global problems. 

Officials at Clemson wanted to digitize decades of crop and pest management data so that farmers could be provided with instant crop yield recommendations. IBM created an open-source Agricultural Recommendations (AgRec) prototype API for agriculture recommendations so they are available to anyone who needs it. 

The organizations came together to create a mobile platform that allows farmers to access the recommendations and search through agricultural suggestions from their phones. 

IBM's Edrian Irizarry and Gaurav Ramakrishna explained in a blog post that many rural farmers in the US do not have easy access to necessary crop and pest management data. Many are forced to simply call Research and Cooperative Extension Services offices or go in person to get information and ask questions. This can be difficult for farmers in remote areas. 

"US land-grant institutions have information available through their Cooperative Extension Services that can help people get the food and nutrition they need. This program will help get this information to people who need it most in South Carolina, the United States, and beyond," said George Askew, Clemson vice president for Public Service and Agriculture. 

AgRec leverages data going back to 1914, when Clemson's Extension Service was founded, and the tool can be geotagged so that farmers can use local market and climate data to inform their choices. 

Clemson precision agriculture engineer Kendall Kirk said that through AgRec, they are establishing a digital presence for Extension recommendations and building a framework that will allow everyone to contribute. 

Brandy Byrd, IBM software development manager, explained that the program would give them the ability to help agricultural organizations in other ways, like providing a range of technology to handle things like mobile accessibility, rural connectivity, edge computing, computational analytics, artificial intelligence, supply chain optimization, app development and more. 

"Farmers rely on information they receive from their Cooperative Extension Service researchers and county agents," Byrd said. "Our collaborative work will help get this information to farmers to improve yields and advise on day-to-day farming practices. Digitizing and modernizing this data helps bring agriculture recommendations to farmers when and where they need it without having to be in a particular location. Open sourcing the Agricultural Recommendations (AgRec) Prototype API is a great first step to get the AgStack open-source community involved."

The Linux Foundation is helping in the effort by managing and hosting the data infrastructure in AgStack, their food- and agriculture-focused open-source organization. AgStack will host the code on one of its Github repositories and will carry the agronomic recommendation engine and data through its cloud.

AgRec is expected to be fully released by late 2022. 

AgStack Foundation executive director Sumer Johal said they believe the world of agriculture is going through a digital transformation prompting the need for more people to benefit from a common community-contained neutral and trusted infrastructure.

"What we're doing is taking existing bodies of work relevant to agriculture and sewing them together to create a common, free digital infrastructure to benefit farmers all over the world," Johal said.  

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