Launch of the Initiative on Big Data, Food Security and the Environment

Big data is a big deal.

The 2016 International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) Spring Symposium, "Using Big Data to Improve International Food Security," convened experts from across the University and beyond to explore opportunities to apply novel data sources and new analytic techniques to the issues of food security across the globe. While analysis of domestic agricultural production and distribution has relied increasingly on data-rich methods to target production and marketing decisions, data analytics have not been applied so intensively to international food systems towards the goal of increasing food security. Researchers at the University of Illinois plan to change that through the launch of the Initiative on Big Data, Food Security and the Environment. 

Professor Kathy Baylis has been named the faculty lead of the Initiative on Big Data, Food Security, and the Environment, an effort within the IFSI program. With OIP support, she and other ACES faculty have engaged with multiple domestic and international groups trying to identify the challenges in international food security that could be addressed using novel data collection and analytical tools. Working with the Mid-West Big Data Hub, ACES faculty and collaborators across the campus are uniquely positioned to utilize these methods to help feed the world without sacrificing the natural resources upon which agriculture depends.

Please visit to see the website for this new initiative and to get an overview of the issues, the plans, and the faculty involved in engaging in this area. If you are interested in joining the initiative, please use the contact link on the webpage or contact Dr. Baylis directly.

The College’s ties in this area extend well beyond the campus. Jamie Adams, graduate of the Agricultural and Consumer Economics Department is leading the USDA’s efforts in the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative. GODAN constitutes an international partnership to share data “to deal with the urgent challenge of ensuring global food security.” ACES faculty share this aim and are interacting with GODAN as well as international agricultural research centers, government agencies, and other universities to find ways to use data analytics to reduce global hunger.

Photo: Kathy Baylis, Prasanta Kalita, Chancellor Robert Jones, Amy Marshall Colon and AJ Christensen at the GODAN Summit in New York City, September 2016.

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Alex Winter-Nelson