Data spaces in the European agrifood chain to grow in alliances

#24, June 2022

Rosa Gallardo & José Emilio Guerrero

Technical High School of Agronomics and Forestry Engineers, University of Córdoba

The enormous challenges that the EU has taken on the Green Deal require significant political will, perseverance, public and private investment and commitments from “Member States” and citizens. An economy for the people, a Europe adapted to the digital age, protecting the European way of life, a stronger Europe in the world, a new impetus for democracy.(1)

Likewise, considering the importance of a harmonious green and digital transition with data at the center of strategies, it is necessary to create unified, open, secure, reliable data spaces and an agile management in order to make data a key factor in alliances, production processes and in the decision-making.

In this framework, the European Strategy for Data published in February 2020 aims to establish a “Single market for data” where data flows between countries and sectors, being easily accessible and used respecting the European values ​​and rules. Although it is also important to point out that fragmentation between “Member States” is a risk for the development of a true single market for data. (2)

Within the actions that the EU is developing (February 2022), the Commission has proposed a Regulation on harmonized rules on the access and fair use of data and an expert group called "European Data Innovation Council" has also been created. (3)

Furthermore, the Commission wants to promote the development of the European data spaces, initially, in nine strategic sectors: industrial/manufacturing, Green Deal, mobility, health, finance, energy, agriculture, public administration and skills. We may consider that agriculture and food are not an isolated domain but they are also connected to other domains such as the public sector, energy, mobility, health, etc., so the common European agricultural data space should guarantee data sharing throughout the supply chain, from farm to fork.

As noted in the “Briefing session on a common European agricultural data space (December 2021)”. The Common European Agricultural Data Space could lead to a neutral platform for sharing and pooling agricultural data, including public and private data. Also being a key element to improve the sustainability and competitiveness of the agrifood chain and taking advantage of the opportunities that Artificial Intelligence (AI) provides by managing large volumes of quality data. (4)

Particularly in the case of the agri-food chain, the diversity of data sources makes it complex, unstructured, heterogeneous and non-standardized, adding an extra effort to manage and analyze that data. Therefore, there is a tendency to develop Data Warehouse Service (DWs) as a semantic layer to increase its interpretability.

The Commission has launched a preparatory action for the data space for agriculture (November 2021). This will be implemented through a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) that will explore possible options and conceptual approaches for the future deployment of this data space.

It is important to note that the DIGITAL plan for common European data spaces is synchronized with other activities such as "The International Data Spaces Association (IDSA)"; IDSA Data Space Radar; BDVA Big Data Value Association; the OPEN DEI project to support the implementation of new generation digital platforms in four domains: industry, energy, health and agriculture; the private initiative GAIA-X with more than 300 members; Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on the next-generation cloud, i4Trust joint project between the FIWARE Foundation, iSHARE and FundingBox, the CYBELE project that proposes a distributed Big Data architecture, etc.

In addition, we should mention the developments of the “Member States” from the large private operators. Just one example, Google, inaugurated a new regional cloud for Southern Europe in Madrid in the last week of May 2022, in addition to other 32 centers that Google has already spread around the world.

As stated in the "Report on the challenges and opportunities of European data spaces", a huge digitization effort is being made in the agrifood sector, which produces an enormous number of products, but also increasingly a large amount of data. In general, it is known that this data only has value if it is shared, gathered and then defined in applications or useful tips. (5)

Finally, we can say that the European agricultural data space is an opportunity to build and consolidate alliances, being quite mandatory that each institution or company do everything possible to create shared value. In this regard, we believe that the S3 Partnership on Traceability and Big Data in the agrifood value chain can take advantage of its knowledge, their relationships and their complicity to make a valuable contribution to the creation, dissemination and use of a data space in agrifood.

  1. Political guidelines for the next European Commission 2019-2024
  2. A European Strategy for data
  3. Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on European data governance (Data Governance Act)
  4. Information Session on a Common European Agricultural Data Space
  5. European common data spaces. A report on challenges and opportunities

PdH Rosa Gallardo Cobos - Director of the Technical High School of Agronomics and Forestry Engineers (ETSIAM), University of Córdoba

PdH José Emilio Guerrero Ginel - ETSIAM Professor, University of Córdoba