Journal Article

Where is my crop? Data-driven initiatives to support integrated multi-stakeholder agricultural decisions

Globally, there has been an explosion of data generation in agriculture. With such a deluge of data available, it has become essential to create solutions that organize, analyze, and visualize it to gain actionable insights, which can guide farmers, scientists, or policy makers to take better decisions that lead to transformative actions for agriculture. There is a plethora of digital innovations in agriculture that implement big data techniques to harness solutions from large amounts of data, however, there is also a significant gap in access to these innovations among stakeholders of the value chains, with smallholder's farmers facing higher risks. Open data platforms have emerged as an important source of information for this group of producers but are still far from reaching their full potential. While the growing number of such initiatives has improved the availability and reach of data, it has also made the collection and processing of this information more difficult, widening the gap between those who can process and interpret this information and those who cannot. The Crop Observatories are presented in this article as an initiative that aims to harmonize large amounts of crop-specific data from various open access sources to build relevant indicators for decision making. Observatories are being developed for rice, cassava, beans, plantain and banana, and tropical forages, containing information on production, prices, policies, breeding, agronomy, and socioeconomic variables of interest. The Observatories are expected to become a lighthouse that attracts multi-stakeholders to avoid “not see the forest for the trees” and to advance research and strengthen crop economic systems. The process of developing the Observatories, as well as the methods for data collection, analysis, and display, is described. The main results obtained by the recently launched Rice Observatory (, and the about to be launched Cassava Observatory are presented, contextualizing their potential use and importance for multi-stakeholders of both crops. The article concludes with a list of lessons learned and next steps for the Observatories, which are also expected to guide the development of similar initiatives. Observatories, beyond presenting themselves as an alternative for improving data-driven decision making, can become platforms for collaboration on data issues and digital innovations within each sector.