Saturday, December 16, 2017

How we documented the GAIA Congress 2017 using Twitter

I was involved in yet another Conference (4th GAIA Panhellenic Congress 2017) in terms of organizing the use of social media and I believe that it was a successful one in this sense.

To make a long story short, the challenging fact was that the audience of the Conference was highly heterogeneous, ranging from farmers and representatives of agricultural cooperatives to agricultural advisors, SMEs, various actors of the agrifood chain, members of EU projects related to agriculture and policy makers, to name a few. This heterogeneity reflected the differences in using and making use of social media during the Conference. It was obvious that we needed to prepare things in a way that would allow us to provide a feed of the Conference's outcomes adapted to the needs of different audiences with different needs and characteristics. But we were up to the challenge :-)


First we had to select the most appropriate channel for sharing the news; Twitter was the winner, thanks to its nature which favors sharing short news items constantly, including media (e.g. photos, videos and even slides). On top of that, Twitter has a proven successful history of being used for the same purpose in numerous Conferences. On the other hand, using other media like Facebook (or even worse LinkedIn) for such purpose, creates an overload of information on channels that are used more 

After selecting the medium, we spent time on organizing our resources: There were different organizations behind the Conference, each one with its own audience and each one had to share the outcomes of the Conference instantly, using the appropriate language. So we had the Twitter accounts of GAIA Epiheirein, GAIA's EU Office located in Brussels (@GAIA Epicherein EU), NEUROPUBLIC, along with our personal Twitter accounts. We also had people managing these accounts so that we could tweet individually.

We started with the definition of the hashtag for the Conference (#GAIACongress17), which we arranged to be displayed on the video wall of the conference even before it started, so that participants would know which hashtag to use when tweeting.

Then, we built a list of the Twitter account of the speakers and lists of hashtags which were of relevance to the Congress, so that we would maximize the impact of our tweets. This alone takes a lot of time and effort, since we need to be accurate - I still remember seeing tweets mentioning a totally different person than the one intended or a hashtag that is frequently used in other contexts (e.g. gaming).

Last but not least, we split the responsibilities among the different Twitter accounts; for example, sessions of interest only to Greek farmers would mostly be covered by the GAIA Epicherein account in Greek, sessions of interest (and with foreign speakers) to EU farmers would mostly be covered by the GAIA Brussels account in English while sessions and presentations/talks related to smart farming and technology in general would be covered by the NEUROPUBLIC account (also in English).


Despite the fact that we had carefully organized things, it was obvious that one should be able to cover for the others; in several cases, we had our main Twitter managers running up and down for setting things up, moderating panels of the Conference and making last minute arrangements with panelists and participants. In this sense, we succeeded in using different accounts so that we would not leave any part of the Conference unreferenced.

The use (and display) of the Conference's hashtag allowed others to make use of it and be involved in the conversation, which was one of the most important aspects. We kept mentioning participants and their organizations in our tweets, so that they would also be engaged (and they did). We also mentioned non-participating organizations when tweeting something of interest to them, so that they would also keep an eye on the updates.

This resulted in various Twitter accounts being involved in the Conference's discussions which allowed us to spread the progress and outcomes of the Conference at a wider audience - much wider than the one consisting of only the participants. Apart from that, the intensive use of Twitter allowed us to create a simple documentation of the event for future reference, including quotes, images and other media.

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 (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

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. :-)

The article is now available online at

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 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).

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

EIP-AGRI Seminar "Digital Innovation Hubs: mainstreaming digital agriculture"

Between 1-2 of June 2017, I had the opportunity to participate in the invitation-only EIP-AGRI Seminar titled "Digital Innovation Hubs: mainstreaming digital agriculture". The Seminar took place at the luxurious Lyrath Estate at Kilkenny, Ireland and I attended on behalf of NEUROPUBLIC.

Simply put, DIHs are structures that aim to facilitate the adoption of innovative digital tools and services by SMEs (and companies in general), allowing the faster digitization of their processes. Stakeholders of DIHs (and potential members) include technology providers, innovation brokers, farmers' organizations, business incubators, investors / funding bodies etc.

The Seminar aimed at enabling a wide variety of stakeholders, including policy makers, research and technology organisations, SMEs, investors and other actors from the agricultural sector to share knowledge, expertise and needs to develop Digital Innovation Hubs for agriculture. Starting from the basics, it provided all the necessary introductory information (what is a DIH, its expected roles, potential members of DIHs etc.) and during its course, it required participants to provide their views on the envisaged barriers which could challenge the setup and operation of DIHs. On the 2nd and last day of the event, participants were asked to provide their input on potential use cases where DIH would be valuable. All these took place in the context of breakout sessions, where participants were grouped in teams working on a specific theme/topic, followed by plenary sessions where the outcomes of the groups were presented. I really liked the interactive approach of the event (btw, excellent facilitation by Vincent Tiel Groenestege!), which kept everyone involved and alarmed and discouraged us from responding to emails and checking our social media accounts :-)

I am personally interested in the theme of the seminar, as it combines innovation and digitization in the agrifood sector, based on networking and exploitation of existing resources. I would love to find the opportunity to be more actively involved with that and have the feeling that I will get it through the Action 16 of the Greek Rural Development Programme. I strongly believe that the future of farming is digital and data production, especially at farm level, will significantly boost food production, thus contributing in addressing the global food security issue.

During the event, I had the opportunity to make some new and interesting connections. At the same time, I came across some familiar faces, including but not limited to:
  • Daniel Azevedo, Senior Policy Advisor of COPA COGECA; a person I meet quite often lately;
  • AIOTI WG06 members, including chair Luis Perez Freire, Phillip-Andreas Schmidt (Bayer Crop Science) and Raul Palma (Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center - also a partner of our DataBio H2020 project);
  • Spyros Fountas (Agricultural University of Athens); one of the few Greek researchers working with precision agriculture / smart farming (and a collaborator of NEUROPUBLIC in several occasions) - also the coordinator of the prominent SmartAKIS H2020 project.
  • Peter Paree from ZLTO, an acquaintance from the CAPSELLA H2020 project (back in my Agroknow days); an open-minded person working on opening up data in the agro-biodiversity context.
Yeap, I was there!
I also had the pleasure to meet and talk with EIP-AGRI team members, such as Iman Boot, Pacôme Elouna Eyenga & Quico Onega. The whole team did an excellent work with the organization and the facilitation of the event, leaving us participants with the sole task of providing our feedback where needed.

All in all it has been an interesting and fruitful event which provided me with food for thought / homework (should I say officework?) and only left me with the dire need to attend the next one of the series - the Agri Innovation Summit (AIS 2017), which will come as a natural follow up of this event. Will I make it there in the end? ;-)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Contributing to the Knowledge and Performance Management journal

Information and Knowledge Management (especially in the agrifood sector) are among the topics I really love and have personal interest in. I was always intrigued by the way that information (and knowledge) can be organized and shared, facilitating its retrieval and exploitation and
the added value that metadata provide to the corresponding resources. I had the pleasure to combine this interest with my professional activities, being actively involved so far in a wide variety of work related to these topics, including metadata, knowledge organization & classification systems (such as controlled vocabularies and ontologies), linked (open) data and semantic Web etc. Some of this work has been documented in the form of Project deliverables, blog posts and even research publications.

I recently received an invitation by Kozmenko Science Publishing on me joining the team of reviewers for their Knowledge and Performance Management journal. I happily accepted the invitation and found myself in the list of the journal's reviewers, along with respected researchers and scholars from all over the world. I like reviewing the work of others and I have past experience as a reviewer of both journal and conference submissions so I am eager to start contributing to the journal by providing my own reviews on the upcoming submissions.

This only made me realize that it has been quite a long time since I last worked on a publication...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Presenting NEUROPUBLIC’s Smart Farming Project in Money Show 2017 Conference

On Saturday 20/5/2017, a workshop titled «The implementation of a project for the production of “intelligent” early harvest olive oils through smart farming and the first global clinical study on people with Mild Cognitive Impairment» took place in the context of the 28th Money Show 2017 at Thessaloniki, Greece. I was there, representing NEUROPUBLIC.

The workshop was organized by YANNI’S OLIVE GROVE, which participates in NEUROPUBLIC’s Smart Farming project, in collaboration with GAIA EPICHEREIN, Perrotis College of the American Farming School and the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders. I had the pleasure to visit the olive groves of the company some months ago (as well as to get to know the owners, the lovely Prodromou family, namely Yannis and Evi) and so I had a first-hand experience of the work that takes place there.

The speakers of the Workshop were:
  • Dr. Kyriaki Zinoviadou, Assistant Professor at the Department of Food Science and Technology of Perrotis College, who focused on the topic of organoleptic characteristics of olive oil and their improvement through the adoption of modern cultivation methods,
  • Me, as the Outreach & Networking Manager of NEUROPUBLIC, presenting the Smart Farming project of the company, focusing on the collaboration with the YANNI’S OLIVE GROVE company and explaining how data can lead to improved production in an environmentally friendly way, and
  • Mrs. Eftychia Lazarou, from the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, who presented initial results from the clinical study that is currently in progress and concerns the positive effect of early harvest olive oil in the Mild Cognitive Disorder.

The speakers presented different aspects of the multi-awarded in international competitions early harvest olive oil of YIANNI’S OLIVE GROVE, starting from the production (see the collaboration with NP in the context of its Smart Farming project), its improved organoleptic characteristics (see the collaboration with the American Farming School) and its potential beneficial properties for human health (see the collaboration with the Greek Association of Alzheimer disease).

The panel was coordinated by Mrs. Evi Psounou-Prodromou from the YIANNI’S OLIVE GROVE company; as regards the audience, the workshop was attended by olive producers, representatives of companies working from various aspects with olive oil etc. The workshop was concluded with a tasting session including early harvest olive oils and olive products of ANNI’S OLIVE GROVE by the specialized international expert Dr. Zinoviadou, at the Ephessus Room of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

I was happy to be among the speakers of the workshop, and to have the opportunity to talk about our smart farming project - especially as a core component of a multi-actor approach that leads to the high-quality outcomes of the aforementioned early harvest extra virgin olive oils.

A description of the event (along with the description of an additional one of the series) is available here (Greek only).

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Working out of office: My "on-the-go" setup (2016 version)

(Why 2016 version? Just because some new parts have not been extensively tested in 2017 - read below for more info!)

I usually have the opportunity (and I say so, because I consider it to be a great opportunity) to work away from office. Don't get me wrong; I like my working environment - I still love changing setups and have found that new working environments improve my productivity.

My current office setup consists of a desktop Windows 10-powered PC (not the fastest around but does the work) with two screens connected (a habit that I got a couple of years ago, when I was using a 17-inch laptop at work with a screen attached), a Logitech mouse and a Microsoft keyboard, along with piles of printed documents and hand-written notes, newspapers focused in agriculture (stored in a bin behind my desk), a weird smartphone stand and pens/pencils/post-it notes. I also have a diary where I keep my daily notes (To-Do lists, notes taken during meetings - I avoid using notebook sheets for that - etc.).

A post shared by Vassilis (@vprot) on

My work (especially in the past) included several days/weeks of work outside the office - including trips abroad for project meetings, Conferences and Workshops, meetings with customers and collaborators, field visits, training opportunities etc. Therefore, I had to adapt to a digital nomad approach, where I could have access to all my work (e.g. emails, documents and notes) all the time, even when I was away from office. I therefore tried and tested (under real circumstances) different tools, setups and approaches, in order to ensure that being out of office would not affect my productivity. Some of the key components are the following:

1. Backpack: I cannot imagine a trip abroad without a backpack - and I mean a good one! This is where all important stuff goes, including my laptop (or tablet) and charger, mouse, documents related to the trip including passport and maps, boarding passes, things to read or review during the flight/trip, pens/pencils/markers/notepads, my diary, smartphone and wallet etc. For such kind of trips you need an elegant but still durable backpack (water-resistance is also an essential feature). I currently use a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Collection Backpack, which is suitable for laptops up to 17,3' and has plenty of pockets for all stuff I need to have with me.

2. Laptop: One of the most essential companions during a trip. I am not processing video when I am on the go, so I do not need the most powerful laptop available. I have used several significantly different laptops, each one having advantages and drawbacks: my 17-inch Toshiba Satellite provided ample working space but was bulky, heavy and short on battery power, my 11,6-inch Acer netbook was ultra portable but lagging to catch up with basic tasks even with Linux installed, my 15,6-inch basic Acer Aspire laptop providing a balance between portability and performance, with surprising good battery - for a €300 laptop!).

I recently started traveling with my 10,1-inch Windows Tablet (Z3735F @ 1,33GHz, 2 GB RAM and 32GB storage), accompanied by a bluetooth keyboard (Logitech K480), a travel mouse and an external hard disk (where most - if not all - of my work is synced). By using a tablet with a detachable keyboard I have the flexibility to use tablet only (lighter) when reading e.g. at the airport or during a flight and easily convert it to a mini-laptop during the meeting or at the hotel room. Performance of the tablet is adequate for typical usage (e.g. editing slides and documents, web browsing and social media - even for watching movies if there is time for that!) and tiny screen is usually not an issue: sometimes I even have the option to plug it to larger screen (if available) or the hotel room's TV (not as frequently as I would like, I have to admit). Battery life time is usually adequate for a half-day meeting but power sockets are usually available.

A post shared by Vassilis (@vprot) on

3. Documents (digital): A connection to the internet is not always available (e.g. in airports, hotel rooms and even meeting places), but still I need to have a copy of my work as a reference at all times. My work exists in Dropbox, so I only have to copy my Dropbox folder to an external hard disk before the trip. All changes of documents are then synced with my Dropbox on the cloud - it is a great convenience! On top of that, all photos taken with my Windows Phone (ranging from event photos to scans of receipts) are available on OneDrive and synced with my laptops.

4. Software: I like to travel light (not that I manage to do so in all occasions), so I tend to reduce the amount of printed material I carry with my while travelling. To do so, I have to replace traditional tools of the trade with digital ones. For example, I keep in Google Calendar all important dates (deadlines & milestones for project tasks, dates for events like Conferences etc.). I use Trello for organizing my work/tasks and efficiently allocate my time to each, Google Docs for keeping notes during meetings, working on large documents and allow collaborative work with colleagues, as well as Evernote for check lists and for draft blog posts (I like the formatting better). These eliminate the need to carry around diaries, notepads and even printed versions of documents.

5. Tools of the trade: It is obvious that it is hard to skip all printed versions of documents; for example, I personally still find it more convenient to go through documents in their printed form, take notes with color pens, highlight parts with color pencils - and the fact that you don't have to care about the status of your reader's (e.g. laptop/tablet) status is a bonus! So I always carry blue/black/red pens with me, a couple of markers for highlighting text, post it notes etc., as well as a number of USB sticks (to share files when internet is not an option), a laser pointer (not only it is a handy tool, usually overlooked, but also makes you look more professional), business cards in an neat aluminum case etc.

This is more or less what I use to keep myself productive while being out of office - and it has been successfully tested in numerous occasions. As a gadget-junkie and a curious mind, I tend to find new tools and ways to improve my setup, testing and integrating them in my workflows. Traveling might be challenging, but only if you are not well-prepared for it! 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Presenting NEUROPUBLIC's smart farming project in the si-Cluster meeting

On February 7th, 2017, a special meeting took place at the premises of the Corallia innovation hubsi-Cluster members were invited to join and make a 5- min presentation of their work (always related to space technologies) to the Minister for Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information Dr. Nikos Pappas and the Secretary General Dr. Lefteris Kretsos, among others. The meeting was organized in the context of the recent announcement about the establishment of the Greek National Center for Space Applications, as a part of a series of meetings between the Minister and Greek organizations (both public and private sector) that are activated in the space technologies ecosystem.
The aim of the specific meeting was to inform the Minister about the si-Cluster ecosystem which are surely of relevance to this announcement and focus on applications based on space technologies which are developed and applied by Greek companies and research / higher education institutes (which are members of the si-Cluster). NEUROPUBLIC, as one of the si-Cluster members was one of the companies that had the opportunity to present their work to the officials of the Ministry. The company was represented by its CEO Mr. Giannis Mavroudis and me, and our presentation focused on its low cost smart farming services that the company designs and implements in the context of its smart farming project that takes place in various locations all over Greece.

The presentation referred to the role of various data and technology types, such as remote sensing, in the smart farming services of the company, the low cost of the services for the farmers as well as on the multiple benefits that they reap through the improvement of their yield both quantitative and qualitative, the reduced production cost and the improvement of their competitiveness in the market through the added value assigned to their products. Another important point of our presentation was the expertise of the company, obtained through its long-time collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), the technologies of which NEUROPUBLIC adapts and implements in the Greek agricultural sector.

Despite the fact that the time for the presentation of our work was limited, the Minister expressed his interest on our approach and the actual results achieved so far. Since agriculture is one of the key sectors with the potential to support the country's efforts for increased exports, the few agricultural applications of space technologies draw the attention of the special visitors.

All in all, I was really happy to participate in this event and have the opportunity not only to meet the Minister but also be a part of the effort contributing to the space technologies' ecosystem in Greece. Special thanks should go to the organizers of the event, who managed to set everything up in such a short time and cater for the needs of each individual participant of the event. We can only hope that the effort (referring to the presentation of the work of more than 20 Greek organizations) will lead to something substantial, in alignment with the ambitious plan of launching the Greek National Center for Space Applications.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Discussing smart farming in Greece in the KATANA Roadshow Athens

OpenCircle, an equity crowdfunding platform developed by Parnasse S.A. – and a consortium member of the KATANA Horizon 2020 project, organized on February 2nd 2017 a meeting (KATANA Roadshow Athens) at the premises of Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) in Athens, Greece. The event aimed at informing Greek potential stakeholders about the possibilities of applying innovative ideas and the funding opportunities offered by the project.

NEUROPUBLIC was invited by the organizers of the event to talk about the status of Smart Farming in Greece, and present its smart farming project which is currently taking places in various locations all over Greece, in collaboration with GAIA EPICHEIREIN. I had the opportunity to represent NEUROPUBLIC in the event so I compiled a set of slides (reusing existing material and adding my own touch in order to make the slides appealing to the specific audience) that tried to cover as many aspects as possible in the time allocated for this presentation.

Our contribution aimed at highlighting the specificities of the Greek agricultural sector that prevent typical smart farming approaches from being successfully applied in Greece as well as at encouraging participants to participate with related innovative ideas in the open call of the KATANA project.

What I found challenging was to collect sufficient information on the status of smart farming in Greece; despite the fact that there are numerous Greek SMEs providing the necessary hardware and services (though not as a package as NEUROPUBLIC does) and also numerous EU-funded projects that focused on applying smart farming approaches in various Greek cases of crops and locations, only scarce information was available. I found a couple of presentations, descriptions of a couple of related projects (but not their outcomes) and one really useful (and recent) report on precision agriculture in Greece (which provided useful information for some of the slides) co-authored by Prof. Fountas from the Agricultural University of Athens. I know that the Smart AKIS H2020 project will work on a marketplace for smart farming so I hope that all related information will be more easily discoverable and retrievable in the near future. :-)

The event was well organized (big thanks to the organizers - Parnasse S.A.), engaged a diverse audience (including academia, entrepreneurs, students etc.) and my presentation raised some interest among the participants, which was expressed in a high number of questions afterwards as well as after the end of the event. I also had the opportunity to make some really interesting connections meeting people working on smart farming from different perspectives.

ΚΑΤΑΝΑ is a project funded through the Horizon 2020 programme and aims to promote innovative and smart business ideas in the agrifood sector. Through a well-defined process which includes innovative tools such as peer to peer evaluation and Reward Crowd Funding, at the final step 10 innovative consortia will be selected and receive €100.000 each, in order to proceed with the implementation of their ideas.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Internet of Things and Agriculture: AIOTI Working Group 06

The Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) was initiated by the European Commission in 2015, with the aim to strengthen the dialogue and interaction among Internet of Things (IoT) players in Europe, and to contribute to the creation of a dynamic European IoT ecosystem to speed up the take up of IoT. It involves a high number of organizations from the public and private sector that join forces towards a common goal.

AIOTI is organized in 13 Working Groups that cover different areas of IoT applications; NEUROPUBLIC is a member of AIOTI and one of the contributors to its WG 06: Smart Farming and Food Security. We gladly accepted Gradiant's invitation (the organization leading the specific WG) and so I found myself in Brussels on Sunday afternoon, getting ready to represent NEUROPUBLIC in the meeting which was hosted by the Spanish Office of Science and Technology (or Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas in Spanish).

I was excited to be on the same table with people from organizations such as Bayer Crop ScienceIBMSiemensCEMA (the voice of the EU agricultural machinery producers), COPA-COGECA (the voice of EU farmers and farmers' cooperatives) and Intracom Telecom, to name a few, and have the opportunity to discuss about the current status of implementation of new technologies and the IoT ecosystem in the agricultural context. I was also glad to meet old friend Christopher Brewster from TNO after quite a long time.
During the meeting, GAIA Epicheirein was mentioned as one good use case of application of new technologies in agriculture; I was happy to provide some insights on how GAIA Epicheirein was established and the work done in the context of NEUROPUBLIC's smart farming project that takes place all over Greece. Our new H2020 project DataBio was also mentioned quite a few times during the meeting, as one of the projects that may help push things forward in the specific context (see e.g. the smart farming pilots that NEUROPUBLIC will be responsible for).

The Smart AKIS H2020 project was also presented during the meeting by Ivo Hostens from CEMA, as a project that could be of interest to the scope of the group; more specifically, the marketplace that the project aims to build could be adapted by the WG.

The next steps of the Working Group were discussed during the meeting and there are still points to be addressed but this first face to face meeting of the Working Group gave a boost into the right direction (and also allowed the participants / members of the WG to get to know each other). I have the feeling that NEUROPUBLIC will be one of the important members of the group, due to its unique combination of technology/infrastructure, access to farmers (through GAIA Epicheirein) and application of its smart farming services under real conditions. :-)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Overview of my 2016

2016 reached its end and it was full of hard work, achievements and an important decision. I still cannot comment on that but it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made... but let's see some more details on the main points of my 2016:

  • By April 2016: I worked with IFOAM EU on... I am sorry but I cannot reveal any details on that, due to confidentialy aspects of the contract; it was something interesting that had to do with knowledge (and information) management and mostly organization of existing resources. It was a great experience and also provided me with the opportunity to visit IFOAM EU's premises in Brussels and get to meet lovely and experienced people like Laura Ullmann.
  • By May 2016: I worked on a contract with UN FAO on the mapping of the legal interoperability status of the major data sources in the aquaculture and fisheries sectors. It was a great collaborative work between FAO staff and consultants that was published as the deliverable D2.6 Report on data sharing policies and legal framework in fishery and marine sciences data sector of the EGI-Engage project. In the context of this collaboration I had the opportunity to make a short trip to UN FAO's premises at Rome and participate in a related meeting.
  • March 2016: I was honored to be invited as a member of the Programme Committee of the AgroSEM 16 Special Track of the MTSR 2016 Conference. AgroSEM is a great Workshop that engages interesting participation from the agrifood and environment sector regarding work with information & knowledge management, semantics etc. My first involvement in the Workshop was back in 2011, in the context of the VOA3R project.
  • April-May 2016: I had the opportunity to work on the FOODAKAI deliverable, which aimed to provide the current status of the food safety data ecosystem, including data sources, licensing schemes, interoperability options, existing mobile apps etc. It was the last deliverable I work on for Agroknow...
  • May 2016: I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life and left Agroknow on May 6th. I can talk for hours & write pages and pages about this decision and the reasons behind it but I will not. I worked with Agroknow since the end of 2010 and was among the first ones to set foot in the new offices in January 2011, helping set everything up (from desks and chairs to projects and contracts). I learned a lot of new things, I was offered many opportunities that helped me build my profile and be good at what I am now and at the same time, I spent countless hours in the office, traveled all over the world representing the company, wrote numerous pages of project deliverables and worked on a number of contracts with high-profile customers. I only wish that we will have the opportunity to work again in the future, under different circumstances. Period.
  • May 2016: On May 9th I started working for NEUROPUBLIC, a Greek SME with about 100 employees. A much different corporate environment, with different structure, needs and requirements. It was (and still is) a big challenge for me to apply my experience and knowledge in a new context, as the company's main activity is Information Systems in various contexts but my work is focused on Smart Farming (so there is a great connection with my previous experience). I am currently serving NEUROPUBLIC as the Outreach & Networking Manager, being responsible (among others) for the design and implementation of its online presence strategy (including social media and other forms of digital content), representation in events and work with the existing and potential future networks of NEUROPUBLIC.
  • July 2016: Participated in MEDHACKATHON 2016 with a presentation on using open data for smart farming services - presenting the use case of NEUROPUBLIC.
  • October 2016: I authored my first newspaper article on the Smart Farming work of NEUROPUBLIC (digital version here - initially published in the printed version of the newspaper); it was a collaborative work and more articles followed in the next months, describing the smart farming pilots of the company.
  • Autumn/Winter 2016: I represented NEUROPUBLIC in a number of events, including the COPA-COGECA Congress of European Farmers 2016 and the collocated GAIA EPICHEIREIN Congress in October, Corallia's si-Cluster partners' meeting, the WE MED Conference of the ENI CBC MED Programme exploring collaboration opportunities with Mediterranean countries etc.
This is more or less how things moved on 2016 for me; major changes, major events and lots of work. Of course there were many-many other things that I did in 2016 but the list would grow more than I would like... In any case, I am really curious to see how the list will evolve in 2017, that's for sure!