AgZero: Using alternative data and advanced technologies to reduce response burden on farmers

Like other data users, farmers want timely, accurate and detailed data, while completing the least number of traditional surveys. That is why in April 2019, Statistics Canada set a goal to move beyond a survey-first approach by replacing survey data with data from administrative sources.

This project, dubbed AgZero, is using alternative data sources and advanced technologies, such as Earth Observation data and machine learning, to reduce the response burden on farmers to as close to zero as possible by 2026. Through this process, Statistics Canada will continue to provide the same high-quality information, while applying the same rigorous privacy and confidentiality standards that Canadians expect and deserve.

By 2026, farmers will spend less time answering survey questions.

Early milestones include:

  • In July 2019 and March 2020, Statistics Canada produced estimates on the number of temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector in Canada using administrative data. The estimates were produced with zero direct contact with farmers, saving them valuable time.
  • The agency implemented a new crop yield model for the July 2019 Field Crop Survey in Manitoba using satellite imagery and administrative data. This resulted in fewer survey questions for respondents in that province. The goal is to expand this model to as many provinces as possible by 2022, depending on the availability of administrative data.
  • In April 2020, Statistics Canada used administrative data to produce annual estimates of the total number of employees in the agriculture sector without having to ask farmers to complete questionnaires.

A history of trusted agriculture statistics

Since the time of the first census in 1921, Canada's national statistical office has collected, analyzed and reported on agriculture in Canada so that – together – we can better understand ourselves and our country. As the agency continues to modernize and chart new methods of collecting data, we are committed to protecting the rightful privacy of Canadians' information. It is our duty by law.

How AgZero keeps your information safe and private

Our AgZero project follows the same rigorous privacy and confidentiality standards as all other statistical programs at Statistics Canada. All collected information is anonymized: this means that data that is made public can never be connected to you, your household or business.

The project also applies innovative methods to preserve security, privacy and confidentiality, including the agency's Necessity and Proportionality Framework. It helps ensure that the agency's need for data is well-defined, and that we work to balance the volume and sources of data with the need to reduce the response burden on Canadians—all while maintaining the protection of their privacy. For more, check out Statistics Canada's Trust Centre.

Learn more about AgZero

As part of our commitment to engagement and transparency, Statistics Canada's Agriculture Statistics Program provides regular updates on the AgZero initiative to key stakeholders. These include Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, provincial and territorial ministries of agriculture, and key industry groups.

Stay up-to-date on the latest news by following Statistics Canada's social media channels, or by registering for My StatCan agriculture updates.

You can read more about AgZero in the StatCan Blog: Reducing the response burden imposed on farmers and business.

Do you have any questions about our AgZero project? If so, contact: AgZero.

The road to AgZero

The road to Agzero
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