AGROVOC is a controlled vocabulary covering all areas of interest of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, including food, nutrition, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, environment etc. It is published by FAO and edited by a community of experts.

Type of content: Assets
Type of asset:
Code list / Ontology / Taxonomy / Vocabulary
Big data potential
Policy domains: Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry & Foods
Open license availability
Ease of use
SWOT Analysis for
Helpful Harmful
Strengths• The maintenance of AGROVOC is decentralized, based on the VocBench Web service for editing, publishing, and maintaining vocabularies.
• Partners from the AGROVOC community can add their own translations to existing concepts, and add new, specialized concepts that fit local needs not yet addressed by the concepts from the official core vocabulary.
• FAO recognizes and welcomes many contributors to its community of collaborators.
• New terms can be suggested using the centralized Web service: These terms can be submitted for integration in the core vocabulary and approved by the relevant editors. But they can also be used in local applications by those who created and need them, as soon as they are created in VocBench.
• In a truly Linked Data approach, thanks to mappings to other vocabularies, AGROVOC can be used as a hub from which to access many other vocabularies available on the Web.
• AGROVOC is a large and well supported effort, with a robust community that illustrates how flexibility and good management can build stability over time.
Weaknesses• There are discontinuities with other agricultural thesauri used in the world
• Too generic to be usefully applied unmodified.
Opportunities• Organize information
• Provide terminology to catalogue and retrieve information
• Promote consistency in preferred terms and the assignment of the same terms to similar content.
• Interest in sharing information grows and questions about appropriate policies and the supporting infrastructure come increasingly into focus.
• Many projects are being funded to consider the problems of ‘big data,’ particularly scientific research data, all depend on stable metadata vocabularies.
Threats• Responsible long-term governance: Need for stability in the vocabulary environment, particularly regarding the need for interoperability as descriptive information moves into the Linked Open Data environment
• Funding: Availability for general use is linked to issues around the loss of funding for projects building vocabulary development or management tools, almost all of which were initially developed in time limited circumstances.
• Long-term implications of depending on funded projects to build and maintain the infrastructure around vocabularies used for linked open data, not to mention the vocabularies themselves.

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