Sunday, September 25, 2016

Data revolution in agriculture: Emerging new data-driven business models in the agri-food sector

The European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI)  organized a seminar titled "Data revolution: emerging new data-driven business models in the agri-food sector" between 22-23 of June 2016 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The seminar was attended by more than 100 people and NEUROPUBLIC was there, represented by its President Dr. Fotis Chatzipapadopoulos.

The seminar focused on the core role that data play in the agrifood sector, mostly thanks to the advances in contexts like smart farming and the Internet of Things in agriculture, where data are collected from various sources (such as sensors, databases, radars and GPS, to quickly name a few), stored, processed and used for providing data-informed advice on e.g. farm management (affecting cultivation practices). The constantly increasing availability of agrifood data combined with the innovative ideas that are transformed into data-powered services leads to the creation of a new ecosystem of businesses that work on various aspects of agri-food data management and development of services based on these data. Using this as the basis, the seminar not only allowed the presentation of such innovative ideas by the participants but it gave them the opportunity to discuss them with the audience and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks with real potential customers in order for them to evaluate the business model of their services. At the same time, the participation and contribution of key stakeholders and policy makers drove a discussion on how agricultural and rural development policy can support the data revolution for an enhanced productivity and sustainability in the wide agri-food chain.

The business model of NEUROPUBLIC's smart farming services is one of the aspects that makes a difference compared to the competition; instead of charging customers for the infrastructure (i.e. telemetric stations to be installed in the field, the use of the GAIA Sense panhellenic network for data transmission, the use of proprietary software for data entry, sharing etc., NEUROPUBLIC opts to offer all technological infrastructure for free and only charge customers (i.e. farmers) for the services that they use - and only for them - on a subscription-based model. This is really important for the potential users of these services, as the company mostly targets smallholder farmers who do not have the capacity nor the resources to invest in costly technological infrastructure but still they need to improve their production and reduces production costs. In this way, NEUROPUBLIC is the one to take the risk and invest for farmers instead of the farmers themselves only to receive a fraction of the financial benefits that farmers yield by using its smart farming services - how does this sound as a business plan?

One can only imagine that the case of NEUROPUBLIC is only one of the many available around, focusing on different steps of the agri-food chain and ranging from food production to retail sales. The explosion of data production and availability during the last years has a tremendous impact on the way that the agri-food sector is operating and the pressure applied in order to agriculture in order for it to meet the constantly increasing nutritional needs of the constantly growing population over the next years highlights the need for the exploitation of the available data.

You can find more information on the outcomes of the event in the recently published report (PDF) of EIP-AGRI.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seeing the progress of GODAN through the years

It has been more than two years since the joint CIARD-GODAN consultation meeting took place at the FAO HQ in Rome, Italy. I had the opportunity not only to attend but to actively participate in the meeting, sharing my thoughts on the way that communication should take place both internally (referring between the GODAN Secretariat and GODAN members) and externally (referring to the communication of the GODAN outcomes to external stakeholders). Things were a bit abstract back then and started formulating over the next moths.

Several months later, I also had the opportunity to contribute (as a co-author) to one of GODAN's milestone publications (jointly prepared with the Open Data Institute team with contributions from other stakeholders, too) titled: "How can we improve agriculture, food and nutrition with Open Data?". The specific publication has been widely discussed and referenced since then and was also presented during the International Open Data Conference 2015by Dr. Cathie Woteki (Under Secretary for United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area and the Department's Chief Scientist,, too) and Liz Carolan (ODI) - the person coordinating the authoring of the publication along with Fiona Smith (also ODI). The publication highlights the role of open data in addressing food security at a global level, presenting a number of use cases where open data made the difference in the agrifood sector.

And this brings us to 2016, at the GODAN Summit 2016, and while in the meantime a number of GODAN-related events have taken place both at internal (addressing only GODAN partners) and public level (engaging all stakeholders).

The GODAN Summit 2016 took place some days ago - a global event attended various types of stakeholders from all over the world, including policy makers and representatives from governments, open data initiative leaders, NGOs, global private organizations opening up their data, open data evangelists, etc. - you know who you are & who were there :-)

There were companies exhibiting their open data-powered products and services, networking taking place, journalists and media making the most out of the conversations taking place. But most importantly, there was the will to connect all the open data initiative in the agriculture, food and nutrition sector and provide them with the tools to enhance interoperability. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to watch closely the outcomes of the Summit despite the fact that there was a live streaming and an extremely active Twitter stream (check out the #GODANSummit2016 hashtag), based on which a lovely Storify stream was built.

A lot of things have changed since GODAN's first era; referring to people involved in the Secretariat, affiliations of people involved as members or advocates (including me) and others; what remains the same (and in fact keeps getting even better) is the will and coordination of both various types of organizations & policy makers and the corresponding activities towards the facilitation of all steps in the process - ranging from opening up data to finding innovative ways to exploit them for the common good which is addressing food security at a global level.

I only feel privileged to have been a part of GODAN since its first steps and had the opportunity to contribute to its progress to the extend possible (from my side). I feel excited to see it growing day by day and meeting its short- and long term goals, one step at a time. I will keep watching closely its activities and progress and I strongly recommend that everyone involved in open data in the agrifood sector does the same.

<div class="storify"><iframe src="//" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//"></script><noscript>[<a href="//" target="_blank">View the story "Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition Summit" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div>

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Getting started with Asana

I have used several tools that aim at boosting productivity in the past and keep using a handful of them for various purposes - including but not limited to Trello, Evernote and Slack. Each one of them has its strong points and usually focuses on specific aspects (e.g. online collaboration, task management, instant messaging and enhanced communication etc.).

NEUROPUBLIC is using Asana for coordinating work between different teams, so I was quickly introduced to this tool, too. I created my account and joined the corporate board within minutes.

A nice reminder sent by Asana through email some time ago
Asana is based on teams, which consist of a number of collaborators/members. Each team can have a number of common projects, and each project consists of tasks and sub-tasks. Tasks can be assigned to specific members and other members can follow the specific task. A task can contain file attachments or files from Dropbox, Google Drive etc., comments, links etc. Deadlines can be set for tasks and sub-tasks and there are tags/labels to be defined by the users.

It took me some time to get used to this new tool; it is not the fastest available nor the most user-friendly one but it has so many functionalities (e.g. creating a new task with specific followers just by forwarding an email to a specific address) that can really help teams in getting things done. Asana can also be used during meetings for keeping notes/minutes, define next steps in the form of new tasks, assign tasks to specific people (meeting participants), define milestones (deadlines) so by the end of the meeting you have everything documented and ready to move to the next steps.

There is a wealth of guides and documentation for Asana that can help anyone learn how to master the platform for different uses. I tend to visit the official page as well as third-party ones not only for help, but also for finding new ideas and innovative uses of this tool.