Data Seeding with EF Core

One of the new EF Core 2.1 features is seeding of data. Contrary to the older version of Entity Framework, seeding with EF Core works together with migrations. This article shows how data seeding can be used with EF Core 2.1.

Farmer with tractor seeding

Seeding Data in OnModelCreated

With the first sample, I’m defining a simple Book type. Predefined books should be written to the database as the database is created. This can easily be achieved by using the HasData method. This method is defined with the EntityTypeBuilder that is returned from the Entity method of the ModelBuilder. The HasData method is defined with the params keyword to allow any number of entity types passed. With the sample code, three Book objects are created and passed to the HasData method.

The values for the primary key values are required when seeding the data. This differs from the previous Entity Framework implementation, and is used to uniquely identify the records on migration scenarios.

The database can now created using the EnsureCreated method of the DatabaseFacade that is returned from the Database property of the BooksContext:

Shadow state with Seeds

One of the great features of EF Core is shadow state. With shadow state, state defined in the table of the database is not mapped with the model type. This state can be retrieved and written using the context.
Defining state just with the context, also requires to pass this data when seeding the records. An overload of the HasData method allows passing an object array. Here, you can pass objects of anonymous types and include all the shadow state with properties.

The MenuItem class defines the properties MenuId, Text, and MenuDate:

In addition to that, the LastUpdated column is used in the MenuItems table. This is defined as shadow state. With the HasData method, anonymous objects are passed. This way it is possible to define any properties – including the shadow state value for LastUpdated:

With the MenuItem items, the database is created in the same way as the previously created Book objects.

Migrations and Seeding Data

What about migrations and data seeding? This time, the Racer type with the F1Context is created. Racers are seeded with the OnModelCreating method.

First migrations are added to the project. This is done using the dotnet CLI:

dotnet ef migrations add InitF1 --context F1Context

Adding migrations, adds migration and snapshot classes. The first migration class, InitF1, defines to create the table Racers including racer values taken from the HasData method:

The database is created applying the migrations programmatically.

Next, another property is added to the Racer type, the Point property. With the model creation functionality, the points for the racers now need to be included as well:

What about adding a migration now? With the migration, not only the Points column need to be added to the databases, but also the existing records from the database need to be updated to include the new values. Let’s apply the new migration:

dotnet ef migrations add AddPoints --context F1Context

Applying this migration creates the AddPoints migration class where the Points column is created, and the existing records based on their id updated with the new values for points:


Data seeding is one of the great enhancements for EF Core 2.1. Seeding was already available with the .NET Framework version of the Entity Framework. Compared to the older implementation, the new version needed to be enhanced as Entity Framework didn’t support shadow state. This functionality is now available with data seeding for EF Core. The new implementation for EF Core also supports migrations. With Entity Framework, I didn’t use seeding data with many projects because migrations was not possible. This is now a feature with EF Core, and data seeding shines new.

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My book Professional C# 7 and .NET Core 2.0 has a complete chapter dedicated to Entity Framework Core. Maybe you’re also interested in my Data Programming workshops.

Enjoy learning and programming!


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