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Use Airflow setup/ teardown to run data quality checks in an MLOps pipeline

To get valuable insight from machine learning models, you need to make sure that the data you use to train them is high quality. This project demonstrates a best-practice pattern using setup/ teardown tasks, SQL check operators, task groups, Airflow datasets and the Astro Python SDK to run integrated data quality checks on a relational table before training a classification model. The table creation pattern shown is modeled after Astronomer's internal ETL pipelines. This example uses synthetic data about roses and tries to predict each rose's cultivar based on its stem length, month of blooming, petal size, and leaf size.

Two plots side by side showing the results of the RandomForestClassification model. The left plot shows a Confusion matrix contrasting the predicted vs the true values for the three cultivars of roses in a heatmap with a large majority of the roses classified correctly. The right plot shows an ROC (receiver operating characteristic) curve with a ROC curve area of 0.93. The legend also contains the accuracy (0.76) as well as the F1 Score (0.76). In the lower right corner of the plot there is a little red rose.

Before you start

Before trying this example, make sure you have:

Clone the project

Clone the example project from the Astronomer GitHub. To keep your credentials secure when you deploy this project to your own git repository, create a file called .env with the contents of the .env_example file in the project root directory.

The repository is configured to create and use a local Postgres instance, accessible on port 5433. You do not need to define connections or access external tools.

Run the project

To run the example project, first make sure Docker is running. Then, open your project directory and run:

astro dev start

This command builds your project and spins up 5 Docker containers on your machine to run it:

  • The Airflow webserver, which runs the Airflow UI and can be accessed at https://localhost:8080/.
  • The Airflow scheduler, which is responsible for monitoring and triggering tasks.
  • The Airflow triggerer, which is an Airflow component used to run deferrable operators.
  • The Airflow metadata database, which is a Postgres database that runs on port 5432.
  • A local Postgres instance, that runs on port 5433. This is the database that the DAGs in this project use to store the rose data.

To run the project, unpause both DAGs. The create_rose_table DAG will start its first run automatically. The rose_classification DAG is scheduled on a dataset and will start as soon as the last task in the create_rose_table DAG finishes successfully.

Congratulations! You ran an end to end pipeline from creating a table in a best practice pattern including two sets of efficient data quality checks to model training and plotting! Use this project as a blueprint to build your own data-driven pipelines.

Project contents

Data source

The data in this example is generated using the generate_rose_data script. The script creates a CSV file in include that contains synthetic data about three cultivars of roses: Damask Rose (Rosa damascena), Tea Rose (Rosa odorata), and Moss Rose (Rosa centifolia).

You can use a classification model with the generated data to predict the cultivar of a rose with an accuracy of around 70-80%. Adjust the parameters in the script and rerun it to generate different data.

Project overview

This project consists of two DAGs, create_rose_table and rose_classification which is scheduled on a task in the first DAG completing successfully using an Airflow dataset.

Datasets view of the use case project showing the create_rose_table DAG that produces to the dataset postgres://public/roses which is consumed by the second DAG named rose_classification.

The create_rose_table DAG contains a task group with a table creation pattern that includes two types of data quality checks:

  • Checks that stop the pipeline if data does not pass the checks.
  • Checks that log a warning but do not stop the pipeline.

The first type of checks are run on a temporary table that is created and dropped using setup/ teardown tasks, which is an efficient way to handle data quality check failures.

Graph view of the create_rose_table DAG showing a task group called create_table containing 2 nested task groups and 6 individual tasks.

The rose_classification DAG engineers machine learning features based on the table created by the create_rose_table DAG and then trains a classification model to predict the rose_type column based on these features. The last task plots model results.

Graph view of the rose_classification DAG showing three sequential tasks, feature_engineering, train_model_task and plot_results. A cleanup task runs in parallel to remove temporary tables after they are no longer needed.

Project code

This use case showcases setup/ teardown tasks in a data quality use case, as well as how to leverage Airflow datasets and the Astro Python SDK, an open-source package created by Astronomer to simplify DAG writing with Python functions. The result is a complete ELT and ML pipeline example.

Create table DAG

The create_rose_table DAG is organized using nested task groups. This pattern has two advantages: It makes it easier to navigate the DAG graph, and it gives you the ability to template the task group pattern and turn it into a reusable module.

The create table pattern shown in this example starts with creating and populating a temporary table. This is especially helpful in production when the target table is already in use use, for example when serving a dashboard or machine learning model. Both creating the table (create_tmp) and loading data into the table (load_data_into_tmp) are defined as setup tasks. The task which drops the temporary table (drop_tmp) is the corresponding teardown task. The full setup/ teardown workflow includes all tasks shown in the following DAG graph:

Graph view of the create_table task group showing the 5 tasks that make up the setup/ teardown workflow.

In the following code snippet, the setup/ teardown workflow is created by calling the .as_teardown method on a regular Airflow task object and supplying all associated setup tasks to the setups parameter. The test_tmp task group and the swap task are automatically determined to be in scope of the setup/ teardown workflow because they lie in between the setup and teardown tasks in the dependency structure.

create_tmp = PostgresOperator(
# SQL statement to create a temporary table

load_data_into_tmp = PostgresOperator(
# SQL statement to load data from a local CSV into the temp table

def test_tmp():
# data quality checks (see code snippet below)

swap = PostgresOperator(
# SQL statement to swap the temporary table with the target table

drop_tmp = PostgresOperator(
# SQL statement to drop the temporary table

# ...

# define task dependencies
# ...

# define setup/ teardown relationship
drop_tmp.as_teardown(setups=[create_tmp, load_data_into_tmp])

Data quality checks are defined using the two SQL check operators: SQLColumnCheckOperator and SQLTableCheckOperator.

The test_cols task runs checks on individual columns of the temporary table, in this case to check that the petal_size_cm, stem_length_cm and leaf_size_cm columns contain values in a reasonable range for the rose cultivars. To see more more examples of defining data quality check statements in the SQLColumnCheckOperator and SQLTableCheckOperator, see the Run data quality checks using SQL check operators.

"petal_size_cm": {"min": {"geq_to": 5}, "max": {"leq_to": 11}},
"stem_length_cm": {"min": {"geq_to": 19}, "max": {"leq_to": 51}},
"leaf_size_cm": {"min": {"geq_to": 3}, "max": {"leq_to": 9}},

The test_table task runs checks on the table to make sure that there's enough rows for the downstream model to be trained, and that the rose_type column only contains three cultivars.

"row_count_check": {"check_statement": "COUNT(*) > 500"},
"rose_type_check": {
"check_statement": "rose_type IN ('damask', 'tea', 'moss')"

If the new data passes the data quality checks, the temporary table is swapped with the target table. The SQL statement that swaps the table is wrapped in a DO block that checks if the target table already exists and creates a backup table if it does.

swap = PostgresOperator(
SELECT 1 FROM information_schema.tables
WHERE table_name = '{TABLE_NAME}' AND table_schema = 'public'

In this demo pipeline, the backup table will be dropped after the swap and drop of the temporary table is successful. In a production pipeline, you might consider delaying dropping the backup table to allow for a rollback in case the new table contains errors that were not anticipated by the existing data quality checks.

The swap task creates the backup table, which is why it's defined as a setup task. The associated teardown task is drop_backup, the task that drops the backup table. Defining this second setup/ teardown workflow ensures that the backup table is dropped even if the dropping of the temporary table is not successful, ensuring idempotency of the DAG.

swap = PostgresOperator(
# SQL statement to swap the temporary table with the target table

# ...

drop_backup = PostgresOperator(
# SQL statement to drop the backup table

# ...

# ...
# ...

# define setup/ teardown relationship
# ...

In the second half of the task group, the nested validate task group runs non-halting data quality checks on the target table. These checks are defined using the same two SQL check operators as the halting checks on the temporary table. If the data fails the checks in this second task group, the pipeline will not be stopped, but the check failures are printed to the logs. It is common to set up notifications to alert relevant data stakeholders of these check failures.

Graph view of the second half of the create table task group showing the nested validate task group with two data quality check tasks, as well as the downstream sql_check_done task.

Validation level checks often contain more stringent checks than the halting checks, for example to make sure that the data is not only in a reasonable range, but also within the expected range. The following checks test our data against more narrow ranges than the checks in the test_cols task and ensured the blooming_month information matches our expectations.

def validate():
test_cols = SQLColumnCheckOperator(
"petal_size_cm": {"min": {"geq_to": 5}, "max": {"leq_to": 10}},
"stem_length_cm": {"min": {"geq_to": 20}, "max": {"leq_to": 50}},
"leaf_size_cm": {"min": {"geq_to": 4}, "max": {"leq_to": 8}},

test_table = SQLTableCheckOperator(
"row_count_check": {"check_statement": "COUNT(*) > 800"},
"at_least_20_tea_check": {
"check_statement": "COUNT(*) >= 20",
"partition_clause": "rose_type = 'tea'",
"month_check": {
"check_statement": "blooming_month IN ('April', 'May', 'June', 'July', 'August', 'September')"

No matter the outcome of the data quality checks in the validate task group, the pipeline will continue because the sql_check_done task uses the trigger rule all_done to always be successful.

def sql_check_done():
return "Additional data quality checks are done!"

If you change the trigger rule of the sql_check_done task and the done task running after the drop_backup task, you can change the impact that failures have on the larger pipeline. For example, you might want to set the trigger rule of the sql_check_done task to all_success during development to only continue the pipeline if the data passes validation checks, or you might set the trigger rule of the done task to all_done to allow the pipeline to continue using the old table if the swapping in of the new table fails.

Lastly, the table_ready_for_the_model task produces to the Airflow dataset postgres://public/roses to trigger the downstream rose_classification DAG.

def table_ready_for_the_model():
return "The table is ready, modeling can begin!"


Airflow datasets let you schedule DAGs based on when a specific file or database is updated in a separate DAG. In this example, the ML DAG rose_classification is scheduled to run as soon as the roses table is updated by the upstream DAG.

start_date=datetime(2023, 8, 1),

The first task of the ML DAG takes care of feature engineering. By using the @aql.dataframe decorator, the roses table is ingested directly as a pandas DataFrame. The feature_engineering task creates a train-test split, scales the numeric features, and one-hot encodes the categorical feature blooming_month using functions from scikit-learn. The resulting sets of train and test data are returned as a dictionary of pandas DataFrames.

def feature_engineering(df: pd.DataFrame):
from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split
from sklearn.preprocessing import StandardScaler

# converting column names to str for the Scaler
df.columns = [str(col).replace("'", "").replace('"', "") for col in df.columns]

df = pd.get_dummies(df, columns=["blooming_month"], drop_first=True)
X = df.drop(["rose_type", "index"], axis=1)

y = df["rose_type"]

X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(
X, y, test_size=0.2, random_state=42

scaler = StandardScaler()

X_train_scaled = pd.DataFrame(
scaler.fit_transform(X_train), columns=X_train.columns, index=X_train.index
X_test_scaled = pd.DataFrame(
scaler.transform(X_test), columns=X_test.columns, index=X_test.index

train_data = pd.concat([X_train_scaled, y_train], axis=1)
test_data = pd.concat([X_test_scaled, y_test], axis=1)

return {
"train_data": train_data,
"test_data": test_data,

# ...

roses_features = feature_engineering(

The train_model task ingests the dictionary and trains a RandomForestClassifier on the training data. The fitted model is then used to predict the rose_type of the test data.

The train_model task prints the accuracy, f1-score, and a classification report to the logs and returns a dictionary of model results for the downstream plotting task.

def train_model(input_data):
from sklearn.ensemble import RandomForestClassifier
from sklearn.metrics import (

train_data = input_data["train_data"]
test_data = input_data["test_data"]

X_train = train_data.drop(["rose_type"], axis=1)
y_train = train_data["rose_type"]
X_test = test_data.drop(["rose_type"], axis=1)
y_test = test_data["rose_type"]

clf = RandomForestClassifier(n_estimators=1000, random_state=23), y_train)
y_pred = clf.predict(X_test)

acc = accuracy_score(y_test, y_pred)
f1 = f1_score(y_test, y_pred, average="weighted")
fpr, tpr, thresholds = roc_curve(
y_test, clf.predict_proba(X_test)[:, 1], pos_label=clf.classes_[1]

print("Accuracy:", acc)
print("F1-Score:", f1)
print(classification_report(y_test, y_pred))

labels_df = pd.DataFrame(clf.classes_)
true_vs_pred = pd.concat(
[y_test, pd.Series(y_pred, index=y_test.index)],
true_vs_pred.columns = ["y_test", "y_pred"]
roc_df = pd.DataFrame({"fpr": fpr, "tpr": tpr, "thresholds": thresholds})

return {
"true_vs_pred": true_vs_pred,
"labels_df": labels_df,
"accuracy": acc,
"f1_score": f1,
"roc_df": roc_df,

Lastly, the model results are plotted using matplotlib and seaborn in the plot_results task. The plot is saved in the include directory of the local Astro project. If you are running this pipeline in production, make sure to save this file to persistent storage.

def plot_results(input):
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import seaborn as sns
from sklearn.metrics import (

true_vs_pred = input["true_vs_pred"]
labels_df = input["labels_df"]
acc = input["accuracy"]
f1 = input["f1_score"]
tpr = input["roc_df"]["tpr"]
fpr = input["roc_df"]["fpr"]

y_test = true_vs_pred["y_test"]
y_pred = true_vs_pred["y_pred"]

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 2, figsize=(14, 6))
labels = labels_df.iloc[:, 0].to_list()
cm = confusion_matrix(y_test, y_pred, labels=labels)

ax[0].set_xlabel("Predicted labels")
ax[0].set_ylabel("True labels")
ax[0].set_title("Confusion Matrix")

roc_auc = auc(fpr, tpr)
label_text = (
f"ROC curve (area = {roc_auc:.2f})"
f"\nAccuracy = {acc:.2f}"
f"\nF1 Score = {f1:.2f}"

ax[1].plot(fpr, tpr, color="darkgreen", label=label_text)
ax[1].plot([0, 1], [0, 1], color="navy", linestyle="--")
ax[1].set_xlim([0.0, 1.0])
ax[1].set_ylim([0.0, 1.05])
ax[1].set_xlabel("False Positive Rate")
ax[1].set_ylabel("True Positive Rate")
ax[1].legend(loc="lower left", bbox_to_anchor=(0.10, 0.01))

img = plt.imread("include/rosa_centifolia.png")
ax_ratio = ax[1].get_data_ratio()
img_ratio = img.shape[1] / img.shape[0]
width = 0.2
height = width * 1.3 / (img_ratio * ax_ratio)
x_start = 0.78
y_start = 0
extent = [x_start, x_start + width, y_start, y_start + height]
ax[1].imshow(img, aspect="auto", extent=extent, zorder=1)


The aql.cleanup task is run in parallel to the rest of the DAG and cleans up any temporary tables after they're no longer needed.

See also

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