Data farming is the process of using a high performance computer or computing grid to run a simulation thousands or millions of times across a large parameter and value space. The result of data farming is a “landscape” of output that can be analyzed for trends, anomalies, and insights in multiple parameter dimensions.
Data farming uses collaborative processes in combining rapid scenario prototyping, simulation modeling, design of experiments, high performance computing, and analysis and visualization in an iterative loop-of-loops. A NATO modeling and simulation task group has documented the data farming process in the Final Report of MSG-088 published in March 2014.
Origins of the term
The term "data farming" comes from the idea of planting data in the simulation and parameter/value space, and then harvesting the data that results from the simulation runs.
Data farming was originally used in the Marine Corp’s Project Albert. Small agent-based distillation models (simulations) were created to capture a specific military challenge. These models were run thousands or millions of times at the Maui High Performance Computer Center and other facilities. Project Albert analysts would work with the military subject matter experts to refine the models and interpret the results. The Naval Postgraduate School also worked closely with Project Albert in model generation, output analysis, and the creation of new experimental designs to better leverage the computing capabilities at Maui and other facilities.
Since the end of Project Albert in 2006, data farming has been applied to many real world questions, in particular defense-related applications. For example, the NATO Final Report of MSG-088 contains a case study on humanitarian assistance and a case study on force protection. NATO has also begun a follow-on task group using data farming to examine questions in cyber security and operational force planning.
International Data Farming Workshops are held twice each year, in the Spring and Fall. Workshop information, including proceedings from prior workshops and registration information for future ones, can be found at the Naval Postgraduate School's SEED Center for Data Farming and the Data Farming Community page on Workshops. The 28th workshop is to be held in the Washington DC area in October 2014.