GOAT: Hack @ USDA ARS (Apr. 4 & 5). Call for Applications!




Another mini-GOAT event is upon us. We’re organizing a hackathon at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, MD on April 4 & 5, 2019.

What this all about? More information here.

Please remember: you MUST fill out the application form to receive an invitation. Due to logistics, we’ll need to get an official headcount prior to the event. Applications close March 15, 2019.

This thread is for you to post your ideas about what you’d like to work on together. Some examples here.

You can either:

  1. Post a concept you’re working on, OR
  2. Propose a concept related to the hackathon mission.

Onward, friends!


I’ll start :slight_smile:

Cover crops are a multi functional tool utilized by farmers to achieve a variety of goals ranging from improving soil health to enhancing water availability. A group of researchers (at ARS, NC State, University of Georgia, among other institutions) are working with farmers to assess how soils, climate, and management interact to affect cover crop performance (quality and quantity) and subsequent crop yield and yield stability under current and future climate scenarios. They are monitoring soil moisture, cover crop quantity and quality, crop performance, and farmer management history. In the CROWN project (Cover Crops: Real-time Observation of Water and Nutrients), they have collected data on 80 farms from Pennsylvania to Florida. Many tools and services exist for researchers to manage experimental data to inform future research, the development of farmer-facing tools, and to gain insights into the complexity of sustainable agricultural systems. Yet, the crux of their challenge is the lack of a coherent data pipeline that allows each of the stakeholders (farmers, researchers, extension agents etc.) to have easy access to data both current and historical. Example projects that fall out of this work include:

  • Data harmonization across 3 data streams: soil moisture data collected via in-field sensors, sample data manually collected by researchers, and lab data as a result of in-lab analysis.
  • Developing a database, or perhaps a Research-Oriented FarmOS interface, to aggregate these data streams, including an API for downstream stakeholders, for example, a data visualization tool aimed at providing farmers with real time feedback on the data collected on their farms.
  • Developing a suite of basic data collection tools based on, for example, the OurSci data collection platform, to be used by the researchers and technicians involved in the CROWN project.
  • Developing a minimal dashboard to communicate database and data flow health and status.

Pipe up if you’re already working with me on this, or would like to :slight_smile:


We want to work on the ontology piece. We have a large, wide ranging set of partners implementing similar (but not the same!) on farm and research level field surveys (observational and hypothesis driven), and we’re hoping to make data comparison across this group as consistent as possible.

@DanT is leading the effort and we’ve been working with @julietnpn and @sudokita to identify appropriate ontologies (or taxonomies maybe?) for questions (like ‘did you till’, ‘did you add an amendment’) and answers (like ‘disked, 6’’’ or ‘compost’ or whatever), with enough context to help the data collection service present an appropriate set of results back to the service to not overwhelm users.

Our case is almost identical (yay!) to USDA’s case, and we’d love to collaborate to further expand utility and cross comparability of data.

So we’ll bring our draft ontology (which we literally need to implement this year, so year… sorry :slight_smile: and would love to use it as as a starting point of discussion, ideally with feedback that we can integrate on-site.


Hey y’all, just found out about this upcoming event, which looks very interesting and relevant to my own schemings. Not sure I’ll be able to make it, but wanted to share some ideas I’ve been working on, and gauge potential interest from others.

Some background info about me: After 20 years of front line food & ag work early in my life, I’ve been at Cornell’s Mann Library for another 20, engaged in a variety of outreach related activities, including support for a geospatial data repository (cugir.library.cornell.edu) and several other digital resources. I’ve also worked on outside projects over the years as a consultant and volunteer, including an experimental “Northeast Food Knowledge Ecosystem” initiative with @dornawcox, looking at ways we could more effectively link the data and information resources of Northeast food and ag groups together. Partly in response to the lessons learned from that and other projects, more recently I’ve been looking at how Land Grant institutions and libraries like mine can help do some of the heavy lifting needed to support such networked knowledge systems. That includes a yearlong “Land Grant Informatics” fellowship co-sponsored by the eXtension Foundation. I usually point people to this blog post as an introduction to that wide-ranging work (the extension site is currently having issues properly displaying formatted text and images, so referring to IA for now). I presented some of the ideas from this fellowship at the 2017 IC-FOODS conference, hosted by @mateolan and focused on creating an “internet of food”.

I’m now working on ideas for what I hope will eventually be a federated network of “FAIR food data hubs”, making ag and food related data and information resources more findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. I’ve pasted some text from a draft one pager describing that below. My more immediate plan is to develop a proof of concept CKAN hub here in New York State initially, which will leverage its metadata harvesting capabilities to eventually support a federated network. I’d love to work with others on this and future iterations…


FAIR Food Resource Network Proposal (DRAFT)

Jeff Piestrak, jmp36@cornell.edu

There is increasing awareness that local and regional food systems represent an area of immense opportunity for community and regional development. The 2017 report from the Federal Reserve System and USDA, Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities, highlights growing mainstream recognition of this potential. It states:

Development of regional food systems not only contribute direct economic benefits to the community, but can also open the door for improved access to healthy food and other positive outcomes that could result in improved community health and a more productive workforce.

A key element of success in this work are asset-based community development strategies which help families, farms, communities and organizations identify, build, leverage and retain multiple forms of health and wealth, equitably, without diminishing future prospects. That includes individual, social, intellectual, financial, natural, cultural, built, and political “community capitals”.

Yet as our and others research has revealed, food systems researchers, learners, practitioners and stakeholders often face significant barriers in efficiently locating and effectively leveraging high quality data and information assets (intellectual capitals) in support of such food systems development work. Many are accessing information from an increasingly distributed array of sources, and may be overwhelmed with the diversity, complexity or reliability of those. Some are also creating, collecting, aggregating and transforming these for their own use with varying degrees of success and transparency, while duplicating efforts and potentially introducing errors.

In response to these challenges and the tremendous opportunities modern information and communications technology (ICT) and expertise offer in addressing them, we propose developing a publicly accessible FAIR Food Resource Network . This networked, socio-technical “open stack”, will link and leverage existing resources and expertise in support of locally grounded, globally connected agrifood systems learning and innovation , including “Farmer Research Networks”.

This informatics work will include engaging the resources and expertise of the existing network of Land Grant institutions, including LG universities & libraries, Ag Experiment Stations, and Cooperative Extension Systems, as well as community, state, federal and global partners (like GODAN). A federated network of FAIR Food Resource Hubs will make a variety of currently disparate agrifood systems related data and information more readily and freely Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Repurposable (FAIR). Recognizing that the success of this distributed sociotechnical network will required development of social as well as technical capacities, considerable attention will be given to supporting “effective use” and co-design of this continuously evolving system, as well as the necessary governance structures.


@JeffPiestrak well I really hope you go!!!