E-Agriculture

Vassilis Protonotarios

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Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

I am carefully watching the contributions in the forum and have to admit that there are some really interesting ideas presented. Just to add my two cents on the topic:

  1. Farmers need to feel safe when openly sharing their data, and I do understand their unwillingness to do so currently. One of the most important investments that need to take place are national policies and legislation regarding the sharing of their data. Legislation needs to take into consideration existing work and aspects such as data ownership, data privacy, the sensitive nature of personal data, data sharing options, exploitation of data for commercial purposes, liability etc. If there is a thorough legal framework, than farmers will feel safer sharing their data. In this context, policy documents, guidelines, White Papers etc. on the management of (open) data, such as the ones developed by GODAN, CTA, ODI and other organizations, are valuable.
  2. Investments in the data infrastructure. A country that wants to invest in open data and reap the benefits of it, will have to invest on a national infrastructure that will be responsible for data recording, aggregation (from various sources), management (organizations, sharing) and publication/sharing. Such an infrasstructure will also have to be open and interoperable, easy to connect to existing data tools (no need to re-invent the wheel) and easy to use. This would also need investment in terms of human resources, regarding people with the appropriate technical and open data background that will be able to maintain the operation of such infrastructure.
  3. Training: Training in the concept of open data, their benefits and even the use of open data repositories, are essential for the successfull implementation of an open data plan. Data providers (e.g. farmers) need to understand the benefits and risks of sharing their data and how to share them. They need to be trained on the use of tools that they can use for recording data from their farms (both desktop and smartphone apps) and those data-powered tools that they can use for monitoring their farms or find the data they need from open sources. Investments in open data training are essential.
  4. Long term plan: The exploitation of open data will take some time to show results, and it is important to have a long-term plan for this purpose. The plan needs to be flexible so that it can adapt to different conditions and challenges that may arise during the implementation of an open data plan.

There are more components in which investment will make sense, but I'll have to skip them as time is limited. I also agree with most of the points already made in this topic.

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

Dear Chipo,

Thank you for bringing this up. I feel honored to have been among the authors of the specific publication, and indeed the Discussion Paper aims to provide some examples where the use of open data in agriculture and nutrition made an impact. There are different application presented, and of course there are many more that we could not include for various reasons (the total length of the publication being one of them). 

The use of ICT tools facilitated various aspects of the process, ranging from the production and collection/recording of the data, to their management, sharing and exploitation. I find a connection with previous week's topic here: The more adapted the ICT tools are to specific applications, the higher the impact is. THe applications are numerous and I will not focus on any specific one.

What I would like to contribute, as a general message, is that we have all the components out there, such as the open data, the applications and ICT tools, the developers, the SMEs that work on data-powered solutions and of course the expected end users. What we need is to provide the mean for connecting all these different parts and stakeholders so that we will manage to come up with meaningful outcomes for the  end users, providing added value to the open data and the efforts of those working with them. As a final result, ICTs and open data should be used for improving food production and addressing the nutritional needs of the constantly increasing global population.

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

The evoloution of technology has led to an abundance of ICT tools (such as agriculture-focused apps for smartphones, as you mention in your post). However, it seems that not all of them take into consideration the needs of the potential end users (e.g. farmers) so it is hard for them to use. For example, if there is no provision for offline data recording using smartphones in the field, then even a willing farmer (but with no internet connection in the field) will not be able to make the most out of it.

The design of ICT tools should follow a bottom-up approach, so farmers should be the ones providing the requirements that will drive the design and development of apps. Validation of the apps (and other ICT tools) is also a crucial factor, in order to ensure that apps work as expected under various different conditions and with minimum effort from the end user. Last but not least, training on the use of the apps is an important factors, so that end users will fully understand what they can do with an app and how to do it.

Of course, these conditions are hard to apply in the case of individual app (or ICT tools) developers, how do not have the capacity (e.g. financial) to ensure the applicability of these different aspects of their (usually free) apps.

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

This is a really interesting point, and highlights the role of agricultural extension and training services (as you already mentioned) in developing countries. In such cases, ICT tools tend to be as simple as possible (e.g. based on the use of phones and GSM networks) and end users usually need more guidance and support. I believe that in such cases, ICTs and the exploitation of opean data available in these areas will have greater impact, due to the fact that farming / food production can be significantly enhanced even in a simple (but still effective way).

The challenge is to find the most appropriate and sustainable way to record data from such cases, which will be then reused under the same conditions (in the same of similar areas) to further improve the farming practices.

If we want to succeed in improving food production in developing countries through the integration of ICTs (and making use of open data), then a good candidate would be smart farming (not to be confused with precision farming) - low cost, high efficiency hardware, minimum infrastructure needed and numerous possibilities of making use of open data.

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

That's a point that should draw our attention: Data acquisition is the first step in the whole data management and exploitation process and in this context, it should be carefully designed and implemented in all data-powered applications. While some types of data used in the agridfood sector are automatically recorded (e.g. sensor, remote sensing etc.), in many cases, the quality of the data depends on the knowledge of the person responsible for the recording.

An interesting example is the concept of CABI's PlantWise programme, where Plant Doctors (see for example here) are carefully trained individuals who have the knowledge to support the needs of the programme. In a similar way, those involved with data recording should also be trained to do so in the best possible way (thus minimizing possible errors).

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

[quote="Ragnar"] Hi, Organic minded people have a principle of producing sufficient quantities of high quality food. I think the same principle should be followed in populating resources. Best Ragnar [/quote] Hi Ragnar, I really like your way of thinking, and I absolutely agree with what you said! I also agree with the flexibility of the quality standards, that Nikos mentioned. It's really nice to have a predefined set of rules for defining the quality of educational resources, but one should always have some additional options in order to adapt to each specific case.

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

[quote="lmclaug"] Dear colleagues, Initiating the discussion on Phase 2, Topic 2, we would like to provide you with a set of questions that focus on various aspects of the proposed topic. As you will see, some of the questions are more generic, whereas others focus on specific stakeholder groups (i.e. content/course creators, users of the content, etc.). The idea here is to start elaborating on these topics, clarifying and delving into the topic in hand. To facilitate the discussion, we would like to ask you to start replying by indicating the question number addressed (i.e. Q1), so that our colleagues that read you answers can easily identify the question you refer to. It's not obligatory to answer all of these, so feel free to choose the ones you want to answer. It would be nice, to answer with separate "posts" on each question. In this way, we will be able to follow up on your questions more easily. 1. As a portal owner / administrator, how do you ensure that the learning resources accessible from your portal, are high quality? Do you have any mechanisms for reviewing and re-assessing the resources you curate? 2. As a user of such portals, what do you value most when you visit them? For example, simple searching interfaces, accurate results, possibility to interact with the resources (rate, review, tag)? Anything else? [/quote] Hi Lisa, as regards the quality of the resources available in our own repository/portal, there is a team of experts on the specific area (in our case Organic Agriculture & Agroecology) that review the resources before they become available to the public. They follow a standard procedure that includes the quality assessment of both the resource itself and the metadata. As for the portal attributes, I prefer a simple interface with various search options and the ability to filter the search results (that is what differentiates the results of a search in the portal and the results from a google search after all!). The quality matter is subjective so I will have to evaluate the available resources myself and see if they are good enough for the specific purposes. Tagging and reviewing options are more than welcome because they provide another way to evaluate a resource based on the users' opinions.

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

[quote="nikospalavitsinis"] In my opinion, that's an on to the point comment, if you don't mind me saying so, but what are, one or two ways, with which we could bring quality to the portal? Will this be attempted through users involvement, or will it be a process, built in to the system?[/quote] I believe that it would be better to implement a quality assurance process into the system/repository/portal, because this would provide a standard quality level, equal for all the available resources. It would set a minimum (or a wider range) of requirements for contributing/sharing a resource. In contrast, if the system for the quality assurance was based on the users, and since each user might have different perspective for the quality of a resource, I am afraid that this would lead to a number of resources with different quality attributes. In this case, there is a possibility that not all predefined quality criteria would be met by the contributed resources. However, the users should be encouraged to upload their own resources, as this would strengthen their perception of being active members of the community, while populating the educational content at the same time.

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

[quote="Lisa-Cespedes"] TOPIC 2 Managing a portal with thousands of resources and users: Are communities "attracted" to quality, like bees to honey? [/quote] The availability of information is constantly improving, thanks to the rising facilitation of internet and communication tools. Therefore, users who have access to a personal computer and are capable of using it are provided with enormous amounts of information. Unfortunately, this information is not always accurate, updated and relevant but still exists in various repositories, digital libraries, portals etc. As a result, the user is responsible for "filtering" this wealth of information, in order to keep only the high-quality one. This is not an easy task, since it requires a wide and deep knowledge in the specific area of knowledge and this is not always possible, due to the educational level of the user. Therefore, if a user finds a web portal that can convince him that the quality of the available material is of high-quality, he will probably stick to the specific portal, ignoring other portals with resources of questionable quality. This one user will share his experiences with other users, leading to groups of users that facilitate the same web portals, acting as advertisements for this portal. To conclude: Yes, users and user communities are attracted to quality, because quality is not easy to find in the abundance of available resources.

Vassilis Protonotarios
Vassilis ProtonotariosNEUROPUBLIC S.A.Greece

[quote="Lisa-Cespedes"] TOPIC 1 Populating a repository with resources and metadata: The quality versus quantity dilemma [/quote] I will have to agree with the rest participants of this conversation. I would go for the quality, hands down. Since we refer to educational material I am positive that quality is the first priority, and quantity is of secondary significance. I can see no use of populating a repository with resources poorly described with metadata. Of course, quality is a subjective term but if some basic guidelines are followed or if a quality assurance mechanism is deployed then we can be positive about the quality aspect of our educational resources.