Defra to make data available to businesses

Defra is to release all the data it holds in the hope rural businesses will be able to use it to improve productivity in farming. 

Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said some 8,000 data sets would now be made public so businesses could use it to “help food and farming achieve its full potential”. The data could be worth billions of pounds, she claimed.

Included in the data will be images from the Copernicus satellite system, which could be used to assess the best soils for growing. It will also include real-time air quality and river level readings and the records of the national biodiversity network, which charts plant, animal, bird and insect numbers across Britain, which Defra hopes will all be of use to farmers.

Cutting red tape

Defra said the data release would also help the government cut red tape for farmers - for example, using satellite data to see what crops are growing in fields rather than requiring farmers to report on every piece of land.

NFU head of food and farming Phil Bicknell cautiously welcomed the data release. “We look forward to finding out more and to understanding how our farmer and grower members can make the most of this initiative,” he said.

“The key to this will be turning the Defra data information into intelligence and insight. By releasing this more widely, the hope will be that businesses are proactive and take on this role.”

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