ISO Technical Committee tackles agrifood data exchange challenges [VIDEO]

Syngenta's Andres Ferreyra speaks on a new ISO technical committee developed to address challenges agricultural operations face with data interoperability across the value chain.

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In this Feed & Grain ChatElise Schafer interviews Syngenta's Andres Ferreyra, Ph.D., chair of a new ISO Technical Advisory Committee on agrifood data. Ferreyra discusses the challenges and developments in agricultural data standards and addresses issues like data interoperability, the process of developing new standards and the role of international committees in setting standards.

Ferreyra emphasizes the importance of data-driven decision-making in agriculture and outlines future goals for unified data standards across the industry. He also encourages stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to get involved in shaping these standards.

Transcription of Feed & Grain Chat with Andres Ferreyra, Ph.D., industry data standards and collaborations lead, Syngenta. 

Elise Schafer, editor, Feed & Grain: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Feed & Grain Chat. I'm your host Elise Schafer, editor of Feed & Grain. This edition of Feed & Grain Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and is your source for the latest news, product and equipment information for the grain handling and feed manufacturing industries.

Today I'm joined on Zoom by Andres Ferreyra, Ph.D., industry data standards and collaborations lead for Syngenta. He's here to provide an update on ISO technical committee 347, which he chairs and focuses on data standards for the agrifood sector. Hi, Andres. Thanks for joining me today.

Andres Ferreyra, Ph.D., industry data standards and collaborations lead, Syngenta: Elise, thank you. It's great to see you.

Schafer: Absolutely. Now, what are some examples of challenges agricultural producers face regarding data interoperability and exchange? And how does a technical committee help find solutions to these challenges? 

Ferreyra: You can easily recognize a data interoperability problem. It's when someone gets frustrated and says, β€˜Why can't these things just talk to one another?’ Such as when your management software can't read the planting or harvest data from your equipment, or when one software package can’t exchange data with another or some of your data is lost or when two systems that need to talk to one another use different words or codes to mean the same thing and you have to waste your valuable time translating it manually.

ISO technical committees like our new one on data-driven agrifood systems give the industry a place where we can work together to get rid of those interoperability pain points by developing standards. And this lowers costs and increases efficiency for everyone.

Schafer: Now as the chair of TC 347, can you share insights into the process of developing new standards and how will you determine which practices will be recommended in the final standard?

Ferreyra: In my experience, standards are usually defined by the people that show up, which is great news when we create a competitive space such as the AgGateway organization or a technical committee within the International Organization for Standardization. So, the industry has provided an environment for discussion and collaboration that has a clear purpose and a clear set of rules of engagement that make it easier to work together while protecting everyone's intellectual property, protecting everyone from antitrust concerns and so forth β€” makes it easier to collaborate and an important part of the leadership team.

And a group like that is to stimulate conversation and trust so that we can together find those pain points that everyone shares and resolve together by developing and implementing standards. And then we can go back to focusing on our core businesses as to how it works.

The International Committee itself will meet twice a year and at least half of those meetings will be virtual. Each of the national standards bodies from the 39 β€” and hopefully more β€” countries we'll have at our starting point in April. We'll have its delegation of experts in attendance and then those delegations as part of the process of doing business, propose new standards. Then we create project groups to write the standards that are accepted by the group as meriting development and the end result, which are the standards documents themselves and technical specifications, are reviewed and voted on by the committee again, and then they become international standards.

Schafer: With the importance of data-driven decision making in agriculture, how do you see these standards shaping the future of the industry?

Ferreyra: The kind of standards we're talking about serve to preserve the meaning of data and make it easier to put the data where and how it can help make important error-free decisions. And we're in a big interoperability hole because our industry's approach to data has grown bottom up with each manufacturer mostly doing their own thing. As a result, we have many data formats, many code lists and such.

You know what they say about holes. The first rule of getting out of them is to stop digging. So, a big part of what we need to do moving forward is raise awareness that there are data standards in the industry so people don't make their own and don't just keep implementing things willy nilly. And along with that, we're going to work to have a comprehensive set of standards over time to ensure that different systems across the whole value chain can exchange data safely and effectively while respecting data ownership and privacy concerns. 

Schafer: For stakeholders who want to share their insights on data exchange or even be a part of developing these standards, how can they get involved?

Ferreyra: The good news is you don't have to be a data geek to have an impact on this process. So software developers and other IP professionals are certainly very welcome. Folks who understand the processes that are really taking place and that daily activity out on the farm or the plant or the elevator or the office, though, those are the ambassadors of reality that we also know. So, they can help us identify and prioritize the interoperability pain points I mentioned earlier.

So, if you are an expert in something going on in agriculture or food, we need you! Regarding how to get involved in the US, The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, or ASABE, was given the role of organizing the technical advisory group, or TAG, that develops the US positions regarding the work done in TC 347.

That's where the delegation that I mentioned earlier comes from, right β€” from this technical advisory group. Some experts are designated to go to that other meeting. So folks wanting to participate would typically join that technical advisory group. And you don't have to be an ASABE member to do so. Please follow the QR code or the URL on the screen to learn more. We're also organizing an international workshop that I invite viewers to ask ASABE about.

Schafer: Well, thank you so much for your update today and sharing how people can get involved with this cause.

Ferreyra: Thank you, Elise. It's a pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity.

Schafer: You're very welcome. That’s all for today's Feed & Grain Chat. If you'd like to see more videos like this, subscribe to our YouTube channelSign up for the Industry Watch daily eNewsletter or go to and search for videos. Thank you again for watching and we hope to see you next time!