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Building communities through soil data


Over the past 25 years CSIRO has been collecting and curating data about Australian soils as part of the National Soils Collection. Much of it has been funded by various state and federal government departments.

However, in order to be considered a truly national system the platform needs to broaden its appeal to a wider community across Australia interested in soils data. This means including large volumes of soils data being collected by private sector players - agronomists, soil testing labs and farm machinery operators - as well as by farmers themselves through sensors deployed on their land. And so the ‘soil data sharing community’ project was born in 2016 as a partnership between CSIRO and ANDS.

It is now a live project with an objective to develop equitable, transparent, trusted data sharing mechanisms that will benefit all contributors and potential users within a structured and agreed environment. The data are privately owned by individual farmers or industry but made available for the benefit of interested communities.

As the community spans government, research and industry players as well as individual farmers - all of which have differing goals and drivers - developing arrangements that satisfy all players is challenging.  

Unlike a ‘data commons’, the data sharing arrangements for a soils data community need to provide a more secure and trusted sharing environment more akin to a farmers data market in which contributors are able to determine conditions for the reuse of their data.

Bringing these data together to allow more comprehensive access will provide a truly ‘national’ collection of soils data. This will be a significant data asset for Australian agriculture, supporting improved decision making and innovation.