UK leads the transformation of crop treatment in developing countries

Excerpt reblogged from Information Age

‘This concept that digital is an agenda that’s driven by a marketing department, whereas IT is just the people who keep the computers running, is a very alien concept here’ – Andrea Powell, CABI

You wouldn’t normally associate farmers with digital innovation – even less so in developing countries. But thanks to CABI’s approach to technology, crops are getting better treatment around the world. […]

Through its Plantwise programme, which aims to reduce crop losses and improve food security by collecting and sharing information about plant health, CABI is collecting a lot of data from its clinics in 34 developing countries.

This includes information about the presence of particular crop pests, what they’re attacking, what treatments have been recommended and where they’re spreading to.

‘There is a lot of data coming into our systems,’ says Andrea Powell [CABI’s CIO], ‘and up until MarkLogic we were using SQL and fairly structured ways of managing that data. The data grows, and as our interest in interrogating it grows we need a much more flexible approach.

‘We also needed the ability to be able to blend very structured data with very unstructured data. What we’re trying to do is compile as much information about plant pest and disease as we can, from all different sources, and then interrogate it using various algorithms and hypotheses to come up with new insights and discoveries.’

Powell’s aim is to aggregate all the data and overlay hypotheses to see what might happen based on historical information, using MarkLogic’s semantics and knowledge graph capabilities.

CABI will then be able to help identify where in the world, for example, a particular pest might strike next, and help farmers in those regions plan ahead to mitigate its impact. Other plans include the provision of a range of region-specific mobile phone apps providing agricultural advisory services for farmers.

The work in this field, led by Powell, scored CABI the ‘Best in Class’ accolade for the public sector and not-for-profit category at the Data 50 Awards.

‘I’m honoured to receive this award on behalf of CABI,’ Powell said at the ceremony. ‘Our staff have embraced digital transformation and truly innovated with new technology. They should be proud of what they’ve achieved and the lives they’ve touched.’

Read the full article at Information Age→

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