PlantwisePlus Blog

CABI’s Digital Advisory Tool team, Digital Development (Image credit: CABI)

PlantwisePlus Digital Tools:

The PlantwisePlus programme is working to increase access to digital decision support tools and information. These can support farmers and extension workers to make more informed decisions in crop health management. The delivery of these advisory tools across the programme’s member countries is improving the capacity of public and private stakeholders to support smallholder farmers in diagnosing and treating health problems using sustainable solutions.

Agricultural advisory services are one of the core target users of the PlantwisePlus digital tools. This ensures that more farmers have access to accurate and informed advice, despite limitations with technology literacy, accessibility and education. PlantwisePlus extension workers, known as Plant Doctors, have access to several decision support tools. These include the Plantwise Factsheets Library and Data Collection App. They support farmer interactions during plant clinics to diagnose and recommend preventative treatments for crop health issues, such as pest and disease occurrences.

Digital Development Team and Themes:

CABI’s Digital Development Team helps transform smallholder farmers’ livelihoods by turning data and science-based knowledge into practical information. With the broad nature of the digital industry and the challenges faced, the team is split into three themes – Digital Advisory Tools, Data Science and Modelling, and Data Policy and Practice. All of which align with the Principles for Digital Development and the following goals:

  • Information and evidence: providing access to scientific information for farmers, practitioners and policymakers, tailoring formats and channels for each audience.
  • Data-driven development: developing tools, research partnerships and data-driven approaches to sustainable development. Our core strengths are data-driven decision support tools, geospatial modelling and linkages to end users.
  • Data collection and communication: integrating ICT tools for two-way communication among farmers, extension staff, experts and other relevant groups.

The Digital Advisory Tool (DAT) theme, led by Katherine Cameron, has played an integral role in some of CABIs larger projects and programmes. These include PlantwisePlus, Action on Invasives and the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE). Their work includes the creation of knowledge portals such as the PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank and the Invasive Species Compendium. As well as mobile apps including the Plantwise Factsheets Library and Crop Sprayer App.

Using the principles of Human Centred Design and CABI’s experience working with global audiences, the DAT theme work towards increasing the accessibility of digital decision support tools and promoting user-focussed design methodology. In collaboration with CABI’s international centres, the DAT theme has developed numerous digital tools under the Plantwise and PlantwisePlus programmes. These can be found here.

Meet the Team!

Claire Curry, Digital Development Team Leader

After gaining experience in academic research and realising it wasn’t for me, I joined CABI to work on projects that focused on the practical application of research. I have a scientific background, with a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Integrated Crop Management. CABI was, therefore, a perfect fit, and I have now been at the organisation for 10 years, working across a variety of projects. Under PlantwisePlus, I am a Global Team Leader in the Farmer Advisory pathway. This involves coordinating the development and dissemination of digital tools and learning products for agricultural advisory services.

One of the major challenges I’ve seen across different countries is the limited reach of public sector extension services. And this impacts smallholder farmers’ access to information. I believe that digital approaches can overcome some of the limitations. We know that these smallholder farmers get some advisory information from their local agri-input supplier, who may not have any formal training in plant health. By equipping not only public but private sector advisory service providers with digital decision support tools, we hope that they will have the information they need to support smallholder farmers to adopt sustainable crop production practices.

Will Holland, Product Manager (Digital Tools)

I have a broad background in charity work and biological sciences within the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa. After completing an MSc in Environmental Biology, I joined CABI in late 2017 as a part of the Digital Development team. Over the past 5 years, I have worked across the Digital Development portfolio, developing content and digital tools. As well as working with in-country partners to disseminate advice to rural communities. I became a Product Manager in October 2022, working primarily on the PlantwisePlus digital tools, including the PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank, to continuously improve the usability of our products for our global audience.

Digital outreach is the gateway to information sharing across geological, social and economic barriers. I see a lot of value in the digital tools developed under CABI and how they can benefit the livelihoods of farmers. However, I am mindful of the increasing challenges faced when using digital solutions for developing countries. We’re seeing technologies being developed at such a rate that many are being left behind in terms of software compatibility and understanding. We need to keep up with global changes whilst remaining focussed on whom we’re trying to help and being realistic in how best to bridge these gaps.

Anna Page, Project Officer

After doing a BSc in genetics, I got my PhD in population genomics, uncovering the history of the domestication of aubergines. In 2019, I joined CABI as part of the Compendium team, working on the invasive species and horticulture content. I developed an interest in user research and digital tools as the product owner for the Invasive Species Discovery Tool. As well as while working on a PlantwisePlus project to develop pest insight reports for National Plant Protection Organizations. This interest led me to join the Digital Development team in April 2023 as a Project Officer. I became the product owner for the Plantwise Factsheets Library and am leading the PlantwisePlus content workstream.

I’m excited to start working in digital development, as I see it as a way to empower farmers and extension workers by putting the information they need in the palm of their hands. And this is particularly important in the face of climate change as new threats are emerging more quickly than ever.

Elizabeth King, Digital Development Assistant

After finishing my studies at university, I joined CABI in October 2022 as a Digital Development assistant. I gained valuable experience studying a BSc in Zoology followed by an MSc in Wildlife Management, where I focussed on invasive species management, particularly with grey squirrels. My role involves supporting the product owners to deliver information through CABI’s digital tools. In particular, with sourcing, editing and processing content for the digital tools, as well as assisting with project work.  

During my studies, I came across some of CABI’s digital tools. This included the Plantwise Knowledge Bank and Horizon Scanning tool, and I quickly saw how valuable they can be. Since starting at CABI, I’ve learned so much about the challenges and innovations of pest management. And I look forward to continuing to support the team and delve further into the world of digital tools.

To hear more from the team about digital development in agriculture, subscribe to the PlantwisePlus blog. Or to contact the team, please email us at Plantwise@cabi.org

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