Soil data portal goes live

News | Posted Apr 09,2020

Farmers across Australia and New Zealand can now see soil data from both public and private sources through a new, easy to use internet portal.  

The portal has been launched by the Soil CRC project – Visualising Australasia’s Soils (VAS). It will host a data federation that operates under agreed data stewardship and governance frameworks.  

Led by Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus at Federation University, the project is a collaboration between three universities, one government agency, thirteen farmer groups, two catchment management authorities and one industry partner.   

The VAS team have visited several project partners armed with a short explanatory video to discuss their engagement in the project. They identified how they might use the data federation and internet portal and what value it would bring to landholders. They collected social research data to monitor the impact of the research.   

They have learned that most project participants value:  

  • Online access to a free, trusted, supported, independent, spatial data management system 
  • The ability to visualise soil data trends over time and benchmarking against local areas  
  • Tools to find and filter data, monitor trends, identify gaps, report to investors, and provide the evidential base for investment or social licence  
  • Online services for group members including education, alerts, tools and calculators, decision support, and combined data  

Almost all groups have provided, or committed to provide, some initial soil data which the team are using to co-design and build the self-serve data management tools. This will allow the participants to upload their data to their secure cloud-based repository.  Each group maintains full control over their data including the conditions under which others may view or access data if allowed.  

The key components of the federated system include the FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship and the Core Trust Seal Data Repositories Requirement. The FAIR data principles let the data custodians set the conditions for making sure their data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.   

The pilot data portal was launched in December 2019 along with a discussion paper on the governance of the soil data federation and the data stewardship guidelines. The data portal demonstrates the complexity of visualising some of the 23,000 publicly available soil data sets from around Australia.  

This is one challenge that the research team face this coming year, when they will work with the project participants to co-design and co-develop the self-serve data entry, data retrieval and data presentation tools. They will also need to test the access control rules and data security, add more data (especially from the university partners), and co-design and launch the online educational materials.