Saturday, May 16, 2015

A discussion about CABI's Plantwise

Plantwise is a global programme, launched back in 2011, working to increase food security and improve rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses. Plantwise is led by CABI, an organization with over 100 years of experience in agricultural research. The Plantwise team is working closely with national agricultural advisory services and establishes and supports sustainable networks of "plant clinics", run by trained plant doctors, where farmers can find practical plant health advice. The whole approach is innovative and seems to have a significant impact so far.
At the core of Plantwise there is the The Plantwise Knowledge Bank: a huge database containing a wealth of knowledge related to plant pests (mostly in the form of factsheets), which provides country- or region-specific plant health information. What is interesting is that this knowledge is constantly updated; not only from the CABI side, which adds new resources related to plant pest infections, but also from the plant doctors who actually create new factsheets on a regular basis based on the incidences that they meet and address as part of their work

About one week ago I had the pleasure to get engaged in a really interesting discussion with Martin Parr, a man with many hats: he is the 
Operations Director for the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition Secretariat (GODAN), he also works in CABI’s Knowledge Services for International Development and last but not least, he is the Head of Open Data at CABI. Martin is a long time acquaintance (we first met during the RDA 3rd Plenary Meeting in Dublin, Ireland in March 2014, and then again one month later, during the CIARD/GODAN Joint Consultation in April 2014). Martin was kind enough to bring me in contact with Dr. Shaun Hobbs, Director of the Plantwise Knowledge Bank. The reason for this discussion was for me to get some information about the data sources of the Plantwise Knowledge Bank, the transformation of this data into Factsheets and then the sharing of the data with the plant doctors and farmers, that I could use for the research I was conducting in the context of the GODAN White Paper.

Plantwise + IPPC side event at CPM9 in Rome- April 2, 2014 from CABIslides

During the discussion I had the opportunity to get a lot of information on the sources and the use of data, the licenses, the agreements with governments for the use of governmental data and the combination of publicly available data with private ones, a fact that raised some issues for sharing the processed information. I was also guided through the process including the development of the Factsheets, their use by plant doctors in the plant clinics, the role of the tablets in the process (replacing paper and computers at the same time), the collection of data produced by the pant doctors and how they are used for keeping the Knowledge Bank updated and many other interesting things.
However, what impressed me most about this discussion was how passionate both of them were about their work and Plantwise in general and how knowledgeable they were, explaining every little detail to me, adding pieces every now and then, going into even more details and being excited about sharing their work with me. I felt really glad to be able to meet both Martin and Shaun and to be engaged in this interesting discussion.

If you want to learn more about Plantwise, you can check out the Plantwise website, Plantwise blog and social media (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) - you can also check out the Plantwise Android app as well as a recent report on the use of digital technologies in the processes.