4 November 2014 – the CABI-led Plantwise programme has been announced winner of the Open Data Award for Social Impact. This is the latest accolade for this innovative open access platform for knowledge to help farmers lose less of what they grow to crop pests and diseases. Plantwise knowledge bank Global Director Shaun Hobbs accepted the award from Open Data Institute Chairman and Co-founder Sir Nigel Shadbolt at the ODI Summit gala dinner at the Museum of London.

Also nominated for the Social Impact award category were communications development consultancy Internews and the UNHCR Data Portal.

With this award, the Open Data Institute celebrates ‘innovation and excellence in the ways open data are used and published,’ as judged by a panel of industry experts, influencers and leaders in the field of open-access technology. It is hoped that recognition of Plantwise knowledge bank will continue to drive other public and private organisations to collaborate for the benefit of rural communities and global food security.

Currently up to 40% of crops worldwide are lost to pests, threatening local, national and global food security. Since its launch in 2010, Plantwise has provided an innovative approach to national agricultural development, working with countries to better manage plant health and support farmers in the fight against pests.  Plantwise works with national governments to set up plant clinics, like those for human health, where trained plant doctors provide farmers with practical, science-based diagnosis and advice to prevent and manage crop loss. Supporting this network of clinics, the Plantwise knowledge bank ensures an online and offline gateway to diagnostic services, pest tracking, and best-practice farmer recommendations specific to every country.

So far, over 198 countries already visit the knowledge bank to access critical agricultural data on crop pest distribution and best practice information to help manage and prevent potential crop loss. Recent innovations include a new Factsheet Library app, which enables farmers and agricultural advisors to take open access data with them to the field, as well as tablet empowered ‘e-plant clinic’ pilots in Kenya and India.

In just two years, the Plantwise knowledge bank has become a vital tool to support plant clinic operations in 33 countries. With these resources, Plantwise has reached over 600,000 farmers and aims to reach more than 6 million by 2020 with knowledge to fight pests.

This type of innovative approach to collating and opening access to pest data is unprecedented, and could act as a new model for sharing the uses and benefits of information to improve lives.
Dr Hobbs, who accepted the Social Impact category prize, says that this is an acknowledgement of the power of open access agricultural knowledge. “Feeding 9 billion people by the year 2050 is a challenge that can only be addressed through a spirit of collaboration. We are opening access to information on crop pests and diseases with the potential to save crops and livelihoods from destruction, information that has not been available to farmers in rural communities until now.”

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