Team Activity: FFAR & Axilab: Envisioning & Funding the Future of Open Ag Tech

Facilitators: Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s LaKisha Odom + Agricultural Informatics Lab’s @sudokita ll

We will facilitate a design session oriented toward envisioning and funding the future of open ag tech.

The first two grand challenges for digital agriculture revolved around addressing connectivity issues in rural spaces and resolving interoperability challenges among data, tools, and teams. In the past decade, organizations such as the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) have focused their funding priorities on convening cross-sector partners from academia, industry, government, and the public, to develop distinct roadmaps to solving these fundamental issues. In 2015, FFAR funded the Open Ag Tech & Systems Center (OATS) led by Purdue University and in 2020, funded the Open Tech Ecosystem for Adaptive Management (OpenTEAM) led by Wolfe’s Neck Research Center. Each of these large-scale efforts exemplified innovative strategies to collaboratively develop open source technologies that address connectivity and interoperability challenges in agriculture.

As the digital agriculture ecosystem of people, data, tools, and methods continues to grow and evolve, we see three grand challenges the GOAT community will face:

Fostering a Culture of Maintenance: How do we ensure that there is a vibrant community of both paid and volunteer developers, users, and stewards of critical software utilities and open ag tech?
Human-Centered and Ecologically Oriented Design: How can we reorient our design practice to focus on improving usability for both human and non-human stakeholders? How can we ensure that our technology design efforts are ecologically supportive?
Cultivating a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Community: How can we deliberately invite and cultivate partnerships with existing networks of diverse stakeholders of open ag tech?

In this session, we will host both discussion and design activities to bring together funders (including FFAR), members of the GOAT community, and newcomers to the open ag tech space, to map out a roadmap that promotes research and collaborative development to address these three new challenge areas in open ag tech.

We’ll post the specific agenda here. Feel free to comment with ideas or things you’d like to discuss!

You can sign up to join this session by responding below or on Day 1 at the conference itself.


Hi @sudokita - really interested in this topic. As a farmer-owned mutual, we have some interesting learnings around cultivating partnerships and negotiating aligned funding that we can contribute.

Really looking forward to attending! Sadly, the brilliant Sumana Harihareswara will not be able to join us at Omega, but she has put together these excellent materials that may help inform the discussion:

Key maintainer skills guides
Earlier this year I ran several maintainer skills workshops sponsored by Open Source Collective. I’ve developed six resource documents based on those sessions, which are all now live:

Recruiting Financial Sponsors: Inventory your potential donors and fundable tasks or chores, prepare your requests and update your website and documentation to ensure you look credible, make the request, and follow up on responses.

Deciding How To Use Your Project’s Money: When should you spend or save? What’s on your project’s roadmap, and how could you spend to support it?

Marketing, Publicity, Roadmaps, and Communications: Understand your audiences and what you need to tell them, how frequently, and why. Includes a template and schedule.

Growing Your Contributor Base: Retain your existing contributors by better understanding what they want and need. Recruit new contributors by easing their path to contribution and making it easy for them to find you and feel welcome.

Handling Burnout and Career Planning: Take a moment to imagine: what would a good departure look like for your involvement with your project? Includes concrete steps to help you plan succession, and a self-guided career planning exercise.

Promoting Maintainers and Handling Conflict: Address difficult issues, and recruit and promote maintainers in open source projects. Includes a self-guided exercise.

Very much looking forward to attending and participating in this session!

The last of the grand challenges you list, Cultivating a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Community, is a major focus of a session I’ve proposed, Creating Space for Open Technology Solutions in Support of Community and Regional Foodsheds. Some of the conversation I had hoped to stimulate there may be at least started (if not duplicated) at yours.

Perhaps the session I propose might be customized to build on the ideas and approaches you introduce in this session, looking at how they can be applied within specific communities and foodsheds. I was planning on at least partly grounding my/our session within the context of New York State and the Ithaca/Finger Lakes region, where I live and work. I was also going to introduce a new transdisciplinary “social technology” I’ve been exploring, Prosocial, as one potential element of a larger stack. I’m also planning on introducing “learning journey” approaches for creating greater shared awareness and collaboration across the food system, drawing on approaches like those proposed in the International Futures Forum Spaces for Growth publication.

I’ll try to post a slide stack on my proposal page soon. Hopefully you all can do the same so I can work on getting those dovetail joints measured and cut :slight_smile:

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Jeff I think it’d be cool to do a lightening talk to give people a really quick sense of Prosical also. I know I certainly would love to learn more, and these ideas are going to be new to lots of people. The lightening talks are going to be early on day 1, so that may entice people into later discussion that may not otherwise know what it’s about :slight_smile:

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Great idea Greg!