The International Food Security at Illinois program launched the Initiative on Big Data, Food Security and the Environment in April 2016 with the goal of bringing together researchers and stakeholders to use big data tools to reduce world hunger while improving the stewardship of natural resources. Ensuring households have access to affordable and nutritious food is a key global challenge that will become more difficult in the future with increasing population, incomes, changing diets and limited natural resources strained by climate change.  Clean air, water and productive land are vital to sustain rising food production but all of these natural resources are under stress.  Data analytics and novel data collection methods are increasingly powerful but have largely not been applied to global food security and resource management because of key gaps in data availability and modeling. This initiative intends to fix this.
This broad research agenda requires not only novel data tools but substantive collaboration across researchers, academic disciplines and regions.  As researchers, we are committed to ensure that those stakeholders who are the source of the data we use benefit from this research, whether they are farmers, business or food consumers. Along with supporting research to meet the above objectives, this initiative can build on the strengths of individual research teams by providing infrastructure and incentives to facilitate adoption of big data tools and increase the reach of research outputs.