E-Agriculture

Christopher Baker

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Christopher Baker
Christopher BakerIPSNP Computing IncCanada

Thank you Thembani for reopening this thread. There are likely many contributions that governments can provide. I want to offer one possible collaborative model here that governments could put in place.

Specifically I think that we need to build micro clusters for innovation where stakeholders representing different interests or expertise can come together to design, build and test / validate innovations that can be put in front of funding organizations. This is based on the observation that many independent innovators don't get validation of their technologies because end users organizations do not get involved in pilots. In my experience innovations that would help knowledge workers in (for example) Call Centres or Hospitals do not pilot opportunties, in part becaue budgets or operating mandates of these organizations do not allow this. To my mind this is missed opportunity as many entrepreneurs have to go "away from home" to get testing opportunities. Overall this is a bigger hurdle than it needs to be and governments can get involved. The tasks for supporting micro cluster innovation could include those listed below; 

  • Stakeholder (self) Identification
  • Cluster creation - based on a matchmaking exercise
  • Evaluation of project feasability, required resources, target outcomes, likelyhood of success 
  • Preparation of projects as a proposals to funding agencies

The focus should be not just at a national level but also at a municipal civic government levels. 

Some programs do exist - like this one in Canada, to permit trials of new and emerging technologies. 

https://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/app-acq/picc-bcip/index-eng.html

At the other end of the spectrum, as data providers, governments can provide universal open access to important data repositories. e.g. in the US vast Biotechnology related datasets are accessible https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ internationally in a number of formats and access protocols. From my perspective we should be provideing machine readable access to online agricultural data resources so they are discoverable and reusable. . 

Just a few thoughts. I'll try and provide some more suggestions during the week. 

 

Christopher Baker
Christopher BakerIPSNP Computing IncCanada

http://plantix.net/

Plantix is a plant diagnostic App developed by PEAT. The App provides users worldwide with customized information concerning best practices, information on preventive measures and independent options for action. Plantix offers the possibility to send pictures of affected plants directly via smartphone and guides through an identification process to determine the plant disease in a very simple manner. All pictures sent via the App are tagged with coordinates.

The resulting metadata provides valuable insights into the spatial distribution of cultivated crops and most significant plant diseases e.g. in form of high resolution maps. Furthermore Plantix aim to get a deeper understanding of the relations between plant diseases and geofactors by the intersection of the gathered information.

Institutions and policy makers may be supplied with this regionalized real time geodata addressing the spread of diseases and prognosis of crop shortfalls, allowing for fast and targeted policy intervention. Additionally, our tool can be used as an innovative solution for direct communication with small farmers through Push-Messages.

Christopher Baker
Christopher BakerIPSNP Computing IncCanada

Hello Ajit - this App may be of interest to you

http://plantix.net/

Christopher Baker
Christopher BakerIPSNP Computing IncCanada

I also made a review of all the posts in this forum over the last week and tried to summarise what I read in a few paragraphs.

Universities: Starting from the beginning we heard about expectations made of Universities – namely that researchers should be providing software solutions for farmers. I think this is a relatively new role some universities have filled in recent years but universities have been around much longer. Myself I don’t fully support the idea that universities are necessarily the main drivers of change or technical solutions. As educational institutions universities are there to impart knowledge and critical thinking skills to students. This is achieved in part by giving students the opportunity to build new innovations to solve modern day challenges. In computer science this would involve requirements gathering, intelligent design and software prototyping. I don’t think such prototypes are all destined to become marketable products, for many reasons, but certainly can serve as models / eamples for innovation. More experienced development teams are required for building robust reliable software suitable for use by a wide range of stakeholders. In short I think Universities are part of the innovation lifecycle (idea to prototype) but are not responsible for product development.

Innovation Ecosystem: I’d like to contribute that that the overall innovation ecosystem must be understood by all stakeholders so we can effectively harness new technologies to bring change in agricultural operations. I’d say each of us needs to recognise what role we play in this ecosystem. Some of us are knowledge experts, some of us are data providers, software developers, interoperability experts…. other’s are agronomists, small holders / end users that will reuse data that has been translated to contextual knowledge but do not have technical skills. No one group has all the skills and we need to establish partnerships and teams to bring about change. We need policies and agreements between organizations to ensure we can work together effectively in an inclusive mission where all stakeholders are equal participants in the evolution of technologies in support of farmers. Some posts mentioned Farm data co-ops where pooling of local data sets, expertise and infrastructure would make it easier and cheaper to innovate on behalf of many stakeholders. This week’s posts have included many valuable requirements for digital infrastructure and software for them to be effective, useful and adoptable by farmers and other knowledge workers in the agric sector. Clearly the roles of the stakeholders involved in building such digital infrastructure are many. I don’t mention them all but we have roles of software designers and engineers, data providers brokering access to large archives of data, roles for data acquisition and storage operations e.g. from sensors or from field observations. Certainly software developers do need to understand the needs of end users and consult with farmers on what data or information they need and how they want to consume it.

Data: Raw data will need contextualization with previous trends or related types of supporting evidence. Data often needs to be transformed to actionable knowledge before it can be made useful.  Sources of data must be reliable and high quality so it can be meaningfully reused, including the design of prediction tools (e.g. crop / livestock disease or pest outbreaks, yield prediction). Software must also provide access to integrated data sets (e.g. together with GIS data) that is reusable for multiple purposes. Software systems should use common internationally recognised data exchange formats to ensure interoperability and unique web addresses should ideally be used for all online data sets.

Access: Trusted data warehouses and data brokers must emerge who can reliably provide cost effective access to data sets serving a variety of client tools designed to support end users. Software needs to serve data quickly for a wide range of ad-hoc queries integrating data from silos in real-time to avoid decision making based on legacy data. Appropriate cost models must exist for access to data and services. Access should likely be governed by rules similar to Net neutrality laws to ensure democratization of access to key data for all stakeholders, rich or poor. Access also means having data in local languages and accessible in many ways that are universal independent of end user literacy, e.g. keyword driven, icon, voice or interaction.

Education: Education is an essential part of the innovation ecosystem, we need to provide examples of successful innovation using farm data so that adoption of software and tools is not stalled. New software solutions should be universally accessible and end users must feel the transformational impact of having access to data and receive support in changing farm practices. Education and training are essential and can be provided through e-learning platforms also.

ICT is a complex and diverse topic and even more so, its application in agriculture. Overall the impact of Agricultural Open data must be felt at the farm level, as soon as the digital infrastructure, business models and software access modalities permit it. In my opinion we will best achieve this by first understanding the roles of all the stakeholders, so individually we can identify how we participate in bringing change and manage our expectations accordingly. As we define our roles we can align our activities accordingly. 

Christopher Baker
Christopher BakerIPSNP Computing IncCanada

There is a conference on this theme ICT in AG in July in France. I provided the link below so all can see what topics are being discussed as they may relate to discussion topics posted here or contibute some valuable background context of what type of ICT is being applied and in what ag sub-domains. I hope this is helpful. 

EFITA 2017: EUROPEAN FEDERATION FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND THE ENVIRONMENT. http://easychair.org/smart-program/EFITA2017/