Sunday, December 3, 2017

[Publication] Article on smart irrigation in EPI GIS

"ΕΠΙ ΓΗΣ" (roughly translated as "On Earth") is an awarded quarterly publication of Piraeus Bank (one of the largest - if not the largest - banks in Greece and the one most involved in the agricultural sector), which presents selected articles related to the agricultural production and the agrifood sector in general, focusing on innovation and funding options.


Its current issue is dedicated to topics in water management in agriculture, includes an article that we prepared about the optimization of irrigation for vineyards through the exploitation of data and scientific knowledge - something that NEUROPUBLIC already applies in the context of its smart farming project in selected areas of Greece, in collaboration with GAIA EPICHEREIN and distinct Greek researchers.


ΕΠΙ ΓΗΣ is available in its printed form through the branches of Piraeus Bank and in its digital form at http://www.piraeusbank.gr/en/Agrotes/agrotika-nea-enimerosi/epi-gis#1 (available in Greek only).

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The gaiasense website is launched

This is what I gave a hint on some time ago and the news can now be shared: The website of NEUROPUBLIC's gaiasense smart farming system is now publicly available!

We started with the Greek version a couple of days before GAIA EPICHEREIN's 4th Congress (keep in mind that our customers are Greek) and the English one followed some days later. The English version is mostly aimed to our partners abroad, so that our work is communicated in the best possible way to them - and I should be the one to blame for most parts of the translation from Greek to English :-) 


There is a lot of useful information about the concept of gaiasense and how it appeals to different types of potential users, news items related to gaiasense etc. However, most part of the content focuses on the four dimensions of gaiasense, as shown in the figure above. At the same time, we are working on updating and enriching the content on a regular basis.

They say that a picture equals a thousand words, so I would skip more (boring) descriptions for the time being and invite you to visit the gaiasense website at http://www.gaiasense.gr/en/

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Talking about open data during the 4th Panhellenic Congress for the Development of Greek Agriculture

GAIA EPICHEIREIN held its 4th Panhellenic Congress for the Development of Greek Agriculture (brief description in English here) at Thessaloniki, Greece between 9 and 10 of November 2017. This year, the Congress was themed "Innovation & Knowledge in the primary sector: Releasing the dynamic of rural areas".



The aim of the Congress was to highlight the importance of innovation and knowledge not only for improving agricultural entrepreneurship and competitiveness of the Greek agricultural sector - and at the same time, but also in addressing effectively EU challenges like food security and the production of safe food products, the protection of the environment, mitigating climate change etc.

On Thursday, November 9th, in the context of the Congress, I participated in a Workshop titled "Digitization in the food supply chain". There, I had the opportunity to talk about the recent advances of data collection, analysis and processing in the agrifood sector. My presentation was aimed mostly at those not familiar with the concept of open data in agriculture and the importance of data in modern agricultural systems like smart farming. I provided the background, info on the types and sources of open data and presented the use case of NEUROPUBLIC, as one of the organizations making use of both open and not open data for building data-powered services that serve different needs of the agrifood sector (ranging from smart farming advisory services to CAP support and agricultural insurance ones).

I even had the opportunity to briefly mention GODAN as the main initiative working towards the facilitation of publication and use of open data in the fields of agriculture and nutrition and the entity to facilitate the networking of various open data stakeholders.



What I really found interesting was the fact that speakers before me referred to the importance and role of data in different aspects of the agrifood chain without highlighting the role of the availability and accessibility of data as open data - this allowed me to make references to the previous presentations and explain that without open data, almost none of these would have been possible.

All in all, it was another positive experience and yet another opportunity for me to talk about open data - focusing on real applications and impact on agriculture and food production.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

[Publication] Encyclopaedia of olive

Some months ago, we (as NEUROPUBLIC) were invited to contribute to an ambitious effort, an encyclopaedia of olive and olive oil. The effort was coordinated by Mr. Vassilis Zampounis, a person dedicated to olive growing and related research. The final version of the publication covers 700 pages and involves contributions from 37 specialized researchers and other specialists of the agrifood sector. It provides research outcomes, business perspectives and other aspects, in a simplified way, so that it can be easily read and understood by a wide variety of stakeholders.

We are glad to be among the authors of this publication, contributing with a chapter on the importance of smart farming in the case of olives. In this chapter we present existing work regarding the adoption of smart farming in the case of olive groves (e.g. smart irrigation, fertilization and pest control) as well as the potential for further improving olive production in terms of quality and quantity with the application of data-powered services.

The presentation of the publication will take place on November 8, 2017, in the context of GAIA EPICHEIREIN's 4th Panhellenic Congress. You may find more info here & here (Greek only) 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Shaping the content of a new website

During the last days, I dedicate most of my time in shaping the content for a new website: the website for NEUROPUBLIC's smart farming solutions. And I like that.

It all started a couple of weeks ago (the concept was discussed for quite a long time), with a meeting between our team and a marketing / digital communications agency team. During the meeting we presented our work and requirements and provided the raw material (content in the form of texts, slides, graphics, publications etc.). Then the agency had to go through all that stuff, get to understand it and came up with an initial layout and structure for the website. Based on that, and after some minor revisions, we started building the content with the help of the agency; we provided the content and they had to come up with more commercial versions of it, filling all gaps.

At this time, a small team inside NEUROPUBLIC (including me) is working closely with the agency, crafting each website section and paragraph, creating and revising content, working on alternative versions and exchanging ideas on new sections or layouts. Seeing our texts on web pages, I realized that we had to make bold revisions to the texts, so that they our expected different user types will be able to identify themselves in the texts and be attracted to the smart farming offerings of NEUROPUBLIC. I also found myself following the stereotypes at some points, getting stuck with a more formal representation of our work but I am working on simplifying the texts.

Even though it is too early to share any specific information on this, I can tell that the work is challenging; smart faring is very specific topic, the terminology used is also specific and the agency seems to have a hard time "commercializing" the texts and coming up with catchy quotes for the website (but still they're doing a lovely work in terms of both content and visuals)! While we have a specific way of expressing our work, we still need to understand that the alternative approach proposed by the agency might actually be the best way to go; in this sense, we understand that we need to balance our point of view and the agency's ideas. We need to make sure that our concepts are properly described and at the same time, we need to be open to new ways for that.

The deadline is really pressing and there are other tasks to be completed at the same time, but I believe that we will be able to come up with a first, decent version of the website - and the corresponding leaflet within the next days. :-)

Friday, October 20, 2017

General Assembly of the Hellenic Association of Space Industry

Today I found myself at Corallia, representing NEUROPUBLIC at the General Assembly of the Hellenic Association of Space Industry (HASI), an association  that represents the biggest part of Greece’s research and manufacturing in the space technology and applications sector, with currently 41 members (NEUROPUBLIC being one of them). It may sound strange, but it is true and proven: There is an active Greek space technology ecosystem and having all these companies sitting at the same table and working together towards a common goal, which is the sustainability of the whole ecosystem, as opposed to the sustainability of each company individually.

HASI low


It was a meeting of people who have the same ambitions, similar expectations and share the same concerns. Their companies have proven expertise, successful collaborations with companies abroad, contracts with major customers and a list of EU-funded projects. They are skilled, innovative and competitive but still they face issues related to the sustainability of their business, mostly due to the unstable legal and financial environment of Greece, the recent changes in the representation of Greece in EU organizations like the European Space Agency (whose projects are a major funding source for many of HASI's members) and the increased competitiveness between the industry and the academic institutes; it is obvious that research is not applied in Greece, and this applies to space research as well. This creates a gap between the research conducted and the lack of corresponding commercial products, which becomes a major issue e.g. in the case of co-funded projects.

I found it amazing to participate in discussions about microsatellites, from design to implementation and even launch to space, all by Greek companies; at the same time, I was disappointed to see that all this potential was hindered and handicapped by unfair policies, wrong high-level decisions, and lack of support from the state (at least so far; this seems to be changing for the better, though, through the announcement of the Greek Space Agency and a related Directorate that aims to act as the central hub for all space-related activities in Greece). Indeed, the two representatives of the Directorate seemed to be more than willing to help companies overcome all existing barriers (to the extend possible) and improve their status in the context of EU projects.

I believe that by the end of the meeting, we all saw the light at the end of the tunnel :-)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Working on the AIOTI deliverable about Agriculture Digital Innovation Hubs

NEUROPUBLIC, the company that I am working for, is a member of the Alliance for Internet Of Things Innovation (AIOTI) and an active member of WG06 - AIOTI is organized around a number of Working Groups that focus on specific domains/topics related to Internet of Things, one of which is WG06 "Smart Farming and Food Security".





Each WG has a plan regarding its activities, including the preparation and publication of a number of deliverables. NEUROPUBLIC (and me, personally) offered to contribute to a number of deliverables and in this sense, I found myself, along with WG06 Chair Luis Perez-Freire from Gradiant (Spain) and Rodrigo de Oliveira from IRTA (Catalonia, Spain) working on the structure and content for a deliverable titled “Digital Innovation Hubs: democratising digital technologies in agriculture”.

The deliverable is about the concept of Agriculture Digital Innovation Hubs (ADIHs) in Europe and aims to provide a number of recommendations about their implementation in the near future. I was glad to ne able to contribute, as Digital Innovation Hubs for agriculture is a concept that I strongly believe in and have some experience, mostly based on my participation in the corresponding EIP-AGRI Seminar in Kilkenny, Ireland back in June 2017 as well as some background reading to help me better understand the concept.

It was a great collaborative work that started in July, right before the summer holidays, with a Table of Contents and some bits and pieces; we allocated responsibilities and started working on our parts, mostly in September. Despite the fact that everyone seemed to be on a fully-packed scheduled, we managed to come up with a 1st draft of the deliverable which we submitted today for internal review by the rest of the WG06 members.

Just by going through the document, I just came up with some ideas for revisions and improvements; I think I still have some time to allocate to the deliverable. :-)


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Special issue article: A use case of smart farming application in Greek vineyards

Ypaithros Chora, a Greek agricultural newspaper, celebrates its 100th issue and in this context prepared an interesting publication about vineyards, grape-growing and wine. After all, grapes (and wine) are among the top agricultural products of Greece. We were invited to author a two-page article about how smart farming is applied and actually benefits the cultivation of grapes.

In the context of NEUROPUBLIC's smart farming project in Greece, we are working with an innovative association of grape growers, called Pegasus/7 Grapes, located at Kiato, Corinth area. There, we apply our smart farming advisory services regarding fertilization, irrigation and plant protection and the first results are really positive and encouraging. So, we decided to report what we have done so far in collaboration with the association and the researchers collaborating in the project, what the results so far are and what are the next steps.

The deadline was short and there was too much stuff to try to squeeze into less than 900 words but in the end we made it; this short article was published in the special edition of the 100th issue of Ypaithros Chora. :-)


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The importance of investing in human capital for the reform of national agricultural research

I was recently browsing an interesting publication by The World Bank, titled Agricultural Innovation Systems - An Investment Sourcebook (you can find the full text as PDF here) and came across the really interesting use case of Brazil, and how its investments in human capital to improve its agricultural research sector took place through a long-term plan and by securing the necessary funds from various sources:

In 1963, the Brazilian government took a high-level decision to build a human capital base for a modern agricultural sector. With financing from the United States Agency for International Development, four American land-grant universities assisted four Brazilian universities in strengthening BSc level training for a decade followed by another four years of support for postgraduate education. In 1971–72 more than 900 Brazilian graduate students were studying agricultural sciences in United States universities. This experience with building human capital in programs in agriculture is directly linked to political decisions by the Federal Government and the Ministry of Education to pass the University Reform Act of 1968, which linked promotions to higher graduate degrees and required academic staff to work full time. 

In 1972, when the government established the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) to coordinate its national agricultural research program, EMBRAPA continued to invest in human resources. It launched a massive human capital improvement program that sent 500 agricultural researchers for PhD programs and spent 20 percent of its budget from 1974 to 1982 on training in Brazil and abroad (World Bank 2007a, 39). Today, one-third of EMBRAPA scientists have a PhD, half have an MSc, and the balance have a BSc or equivalent. 

The most important lesson from this experience is that Brazil did not reduce public expenditure on its core agricultural institutions some 40 years ago when foreign investment waned. Instead, by mobilizing high level political support, Brazil built a strong human capital base to sustain a globally competitive agricultural research and extension base.


The EMBRAPA network
The use case drew my attention because of my previous collaboration with EMBRAPA (in the context of a couple of projects) and because it clearly shows how a carefully designed and long-time plan can lead to important results - we all understand the importance of agricultural research in the development of a country's agricultural sector so I will not go into details.

Note: The text comes from Module 2: "Agricultural Education and Training to
Support Agricultural Innovation Systems" of the aforementioned publication and is authored by Charles J. Maguire, Senior Institutional Development Specialist at The World Bank. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

e-Forum on ICTs and Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition

The e-Agriculture Community of Practice, in conjunction with a number of key partners namely the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Data on Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the World Bank have organized an upcoming online discussion themed, e-forum discussion on ICTs and Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition.

This online forum will take place between 19th of June and 14th of July 2017 on the e-Agriculture Platform.


The purpose of this discussion is to explore how information communication technologies (ICTs) can be used in facilitating the fair use of open data in agriculture and nutrition by farmers in general and especially by the more vulnerable among them such as family farmers, rural women and the youth engaged in farming as a livelihood.

The e-forum focuses around three main topics, on which participants are invited to comment:
  1. The role ICTs play in the use of Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition for family farmers (link)
  2. Do you have any case studies that demonstrates the benefits (or damages) of the use of ICTs and Open Data? (link)
  3. What investments are needed in your opinion to reap open data benefits and how can farmers be protected from the effects of open data? (link)
If you are interested in sharing your thoughts and experiences on these topics, you only have to register on www.e-agriculture.org. The discussions will be guided by pre-selected subject matter experts from different organizations and is facilitated by a team representing GODAN, CTA and FAO. 

I am excited to be among the subject matter experts invited to participate in this interesting discussion and hope that the discussions will lead to useful outcomes.

See you there!

P.S. For those really interested in the topic, check out the related call from ICT-AGRI (in the form of a short questionnaire).