The AGROVOC thesaurus was first published (in English, Spanish and French) at the beginning of the 1980s by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In 2000, AGROVOC abandoned paper printing and went digital, with data storage handled by a relational database. In 2009 AGROVOC became an SKOS resource.

Today, AGROVOC is available  as an SKOS-XL concept scheme, also published as a Linked Data (LD) set composed of +37,000 concepts available in up to 39 languages. By means of LD, AGROVOC is aligned to 18 open datasets related to agriculture (see: AGROVOC LD). The advantage of having a thesaurus like AGROVOC published as LD is that once thesauri are linked, the resources they index are linked as well.

Currently, AGROVOC multilingual thesaurus is a collaborative effort, coordinated by FAO, and maintained by an international community of experts and institutions active in the area of agriculture and related domains. For more information on the AGROVOC community see People. If you or your institution would like to contribute to a particular language or translate AGROVOC into a new language, please contact us at [email protected]


Concept scheme

Concepts, their labels and relations are the basic notions for an RDF / SKOS-XL concept scheme like AGROVOC.

  1. Concepts are anything we want to represent or “talk about” in our domain. Concepts are represented by terms. A concept could also be considered the set of all terms used to express it in various languages.

    In SKOS concepts are formalized as skos:Concept, identified by dereferenceable URIs (= URL). For example, URI is the AGROVOC concept for maize.

  1. Terms are the actual terms used to name a concept. For example maize, maïs, 玉米, ข้าวโพด are all labels for the same concept in English, French, Chinese and Thai respectively.

    AGROVOC labels are expressed by means of SKOS extension for labels, SKOS-XL. The predicates used are:
    skosxl:prefLabel, used for preferred terms (“descriptors” in thesaurus terminology), and
    skosxl:altLabel, used for non- preferred terms.

  1. Relations (hierarchical & non-hierarchical)

    In SKOS, hierarchical relations between concepts are expressed by the predicates skos:broader and skos:narrower. They correspond to the classical thesaurus relations broader/narrower (BT/NT).

    Non-hierarchical relations express a notion of “relatedness” between concepts. AGROVOC uses the SKOS relation skos:related (corresponding to the classical thesaurus RT), and a specific vocabulary of relations called Agrontology.

    AGROVOC also allows for relations between labels (i.e. terms), thanks to the SKOS-XL extension to SKOS.

The figure below represents a fragment of the AGROVOC concept scheme. Circles are used to represent objects with URIs, boxes are used for literal values and AV, SKOS and SKOS-XL are short for,, respectively.


The figure shows two AGROVOC concepts linked by the property skos:broader (hierarchical  relation), each with an SKOS-XL label.