The impact of telematics on agricultural advisory work

The impact of telematics on agricultural advisory work


108 pages
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Proceedings of a workshop held in London, 29-30 September 1988
Information technology and telecommunications
Agricultural regulations



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*Commission of the European Communities
The impact of telematics
on agricultural advisory work
EUR 11571 EN Commission of the European Communities
The impact of telematics
on agricultural advisory work
Proceedings of a workshop held in London
29 and 30 September 1988
Edited by
C. I. Houseman
ADAS, London (UK)
Sponsored by the Commission of the European Coijajauuiliea
Directorate-General for Agriculture
PARI nrp. ?■ us. I Coordination of Agricultural Research
c\ v
i—ELIR.115Z3 m 1989 Published by the
Telecommunications, Information Industries and Innovation
L-2920 Luxembourg
Neither the Commission of the European Communities nor any person acting
on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use which might be
made of the following information
Cataloguing data can be found at the end of this publication
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 1989
ISBN 92-826-0901-4 Catalogue number: CD-NA-11571-EN-C
© ECSC-EEC-EAEC, Brussels • Luxembourg, 1989
Printed In Luxembourg PREFACE
This seminar was organised on behalf of the Commission of the European
Communities Directorate General for Agriculture under the co-ordination
of agricultural research programme.
It is one of a series of workshops, conferences, seminars and meetings
sponsored by DGVI/F/II-2 to look at the whole spectrum of the
application of information technology to agriculture. It followse
themes and actions identified during the workshop on agricultural
technology held in Brussels in June 1987 ("The Green Telematics
Challenge") and has drawn on that and the experiences gathered in
subsequent meetings.
This seminar was organised to look specifically at the impact of
telematics on the work of agricultural advisory services. This is an
item which is very high on the agenda of the managers of advisory
services. For example, the conference of directors of agricultural
advisory services organised by the OECD will be considering this very
topic at the tenth conference due to be held in 1989.
The aim of the seminar was to exchange experiences, compare situations
and pass on practical help and guidance to all those involved in this
dynamic situation. The question which still requires addressing is
whether telematics will allow advisory services to deliver more cost
effective and high quality services to their clientele.
ADAS Information Services Unit
October 1988
Aim of the Seminar
Most agricultural advisory services in Europe are having to face up to
the challenge of new information technologies at a time when they
themselves are undergoing changes in structure and funding. This poses
a series of fundamental questions about the manner in which this subject
should be approached;s about funding, staffing, organisation,
time scales, management and training.
It is the aim of this seminar to explore the current context in which
advisory services operate and to discuss some of the issues in detail
with a view to providing help and guidance to those involved and to
others who wil become involved in time.
Seminar Objectives
1. To identify the factors which are bringing about a change in the
nature of advisory services.
2. To review those areas where telematics can have an impact on
advisory organisations.
3. To discuss the specific issues which the managers of advisory
services must consider when adopting information technology.
4. To provide guidance to those working in this field.
Preface HI
Aim of the Seminar and Objectives IV
"The Role of Information Technology in Agricultural Extension" 1
- Professor Ronald L Bell, Director General of ADAS.
"The Electronic Expert - Expert Systems in Advisory Work" 9
- Mr Tony Causton, ICI Agrochemicals.
"The Knowledge Information System: Context for Information 19
- Dr Niels Roling, Professor of Extension Science,
Wageningen Agricultural university.
"Changes in the Social Structure and Position of the 33
Agricultural Industry - New Requirements for Advice"
- Mr Gwyn Jones, Senior Lecturer, Agricultural Extension
and Rural Development Department, University of Reading.
"Advice over the Wire - Answering Farmers' Queries via 43
- Mr Michael Harkin, Agriline Manager, The Agricultural
and Food Development Authority.
"Managing the Information Resource" 53
- Mr Bob Swain, Director of ADAS Information Services.
"New Skills - Training Requirements for Advisers"9
- Mr Claude Holl, Mission on New Information Technologies,
Ministry of Agriculture.
"Systems Development and Maintenance - who should do it?" 68
- Mr Andy Offer, ADAS Information Services Unit.
"User Support for Advisers in Denmark" 78
- Mr Erik Maegaard, The Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre.
Summary Report 87
List of Participants 91
R L Bell
Agricultural Development & Advisory Service
Ministry of Agricultural, Fisheries & Food,
London, England
This paper begins with a brief description of the
government agricultural extension service in England and
Wales. It goes on to describe the way in which the service
has adapted to the requirement to market its services in a
commercial fashion. Finally it outlines a strategy for
improving the efficiency with which the service carries out
its various functions via the greater use of information
Technical progress is often most rapid when a well-
identified need and an appropriate new means of fulfilling
that need can be brought together. We have such a
conjunction in the operation of agricultural extension
services at the present time. On the one hand government
support for extension services is being cut back; on the
other the burgeoning technologies of information storage,
retrieval and dissemination are becoming ever more effective
and efficient. This paper describes the UK experience where
the cut back in government funding is in part being replaced
by fees charged to the clients for services provided. The
switch from free to commercial services is causing a radical
rethink of what is offered since the wishes of the client as
regards the nature of the services provided must now be
given top priority. And, of course, the client is concerned
about prices too and hence the extension service must strive
to give best possible value for money. There are various
ways of improving efficiency in the short term but I believe
that in the longer term the more extensive use of
information technology will enable the organisation to offer
the most effective and most efficient extension services to
our clients.
May I give you an idea of the nature and scale of the
ADAS operation before indicating how we are getting on under
the new commercial situation. I will then indicate how we
set about determining our needs for an IT system to handle
the information storage, retrieval and dissemination
ADAS is an agency of government which works on behalf
of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in
England and on behalf of the Welsh Office Agriculture
Department in Wales. It has three principal roles:
firstly, it is responsible for the supervision of regulatory
schemes covering animal and plant health. For example, the
veterinary service of ADAS is responsible for the monitoring
and control of notifiable diseases affecting farm animals.
Secondly, it provides an extension service to farmers and
growers concerning the production of both arable crops and
livestock. Prominent in this extension service is the
attention given to business management, and in recent years
to the possibility of incorporating alternative enterprises
into the total business. By alternative enterprises I mean
activities that are not strictly farmings but
which offer suitable opportunities for using a farm's assets
whilst being compatible, in terms of demand for labour etc,
with the normal farming enterprises. Thirdly but by no
means least in importance, there is a research function.
ADAS conducts its own in-house research the better to equip
itself to carry out its other two functions. This research
is carried out partly in central laboratories and partly in
a network of 19 field stations whose location was chosen so
as to give a good coverage of the various combinations of
soil type and local climate met in the two countries.
I should like to indicate how our total resource is
distributed (a) by function and (b) geographically because
this will give you a good idea of the nature of our
operations; it will also demonstrate the kind of situation
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