Tag: Consultants

A day in the life of an agricultural consultant, and how APOLLO can improve it

Agricultural Consultants – Greece
Georgios Savvidis is an agricultural consultant from Pella in Northern Greece. He is one of three consultants from the area taking part in the APOLLO project in the hopes of testing the services on their wheat and cotton fields. We asked him about the challenges he faces day-to-day and what role the APOLLO app could play as part of his toolkit.

Could you describe an average day in the life of an agricultural consultant?

Agricultural consultants are generally trained agronomists who provide advisory services to farmers, own or work in agricultural supply shops. An ordinary day includes field visits, discussions with farmers about crop problems and recommendations on how to deal with them. Within the Agricultural Cooperative of Pella, we have been implementing the Integrated Management System for peaches several years now, so we are addressing cultivation problems with a more holistic and environmentally friendly approach.

Credits: Giorgos SavvidisWhat kinds of problems do you encounter in the field? Are there one or two that particularly stand out, in your region?

Most problems caused by biotic factors are successfully dealt with on an annual basis. There are some exceptions through, such as the outbreak of Taphrina (a plant fungus which causes leaf curling in peach cultivations) which has affected crops in the area over the last two years. The biggest issue we have had to tackle in recent years has been the adverse weather conditions, which have crippled the production of tree crops. As far as arable crops are concerned, we had a big problem with cotton bollworm (Heliothis armigera), a few years ago, but we were able to neutralise the threat.

What tools do you currently use to address them? How do you expect APOLLO to improve them?

The tools we use include:

  • Agricultural alerts for our region provided by the Ministry of Agricultural Development. They are open to all, through the Ministry’s website and other agricultural websites,
  • Observation on the field with regular visits, which is often very time-consuming.

The way we tackle serious problems like disease or pests is by trying to suppress their outbreak and prevent further spread. The downside of this method is that by the time we intervene, the damage is already done. With APOLLO, we hope to prevent outbreaks in the first place, and to intervene in a timely and effective manner whilst they are still small enough to control. An additional bonus would be the time saved by not always having to be physically present to check on the crops in the field.

“The potential to use satellites in support of agriculture has opened up new horizons that are constantly expanding.”

Credits: Giorgos SavvidisWhat do you think the most useful advance in farming has been in the last few years?

The potential to use satellites in support of agriculture has opened up new horizons that are constantly expanding. APOLLO is a prime example of the kind of application which such technologies are making possible.
Can you think of any tools that contemporary agricultural consultants must employ in order to stay competitive? How do they differ from those that you used in your earliest days as a consultant?
An agricultural consultant’s competitiveness depends on firstly, effectively identifying emerging crop problems and, secondly, intervening in a timely manner. Therefore, any tool which improves these abilities is desirable, as it allows the consultant to “buy some time” and work out how the problem should be targeted for best results.
There are several tools like this on the market at the moment – and APOLLO will soon join them – but this was not always the case. in the past, a consultant had to search for crop problems in person, and work out the nature of the problem and its location in the field without any scientific and/or technological help.

Do agricultural consultants in your region have experience in smart farming methods?

Yes, a small percentage of agricultural consultants has relevant experience, mainly in irrigation scheduling for maize.

What motivated you to get involved in the APOLLO project and try its services?

I wanted to have a tool that would help me to identify crop problems reliably and rapidly. It also seemed exciting to have a hand in creating such a tool and seeing how it would work first hand.

Photo credits: Giorgos Savvidis

With farmers, for farmers: the APOLLO co-creation process

APOLLO services aim to help primarily small-holder farmers in Europe and beyond to achieve more sustainable farming practices, fewer losses and potentially increased agricultural yields. Placing benefits for farmers at the forefront, a co-creation approach is being implemented to guide the APOLLO services’ development, through which end users will have the opportunity to contribute to the creation of the services and their validation. Developing affordable, accessible and efficient agricultural services is about understanding traditional farming methods and how new technologies can support, enrich and enhance them.

We care about your experience

Yield increases, lower costs and sustainable farming practices are the ultimate goals of the APOLLO services. But no two farms are exactly alike; there is a great of diversity in farm specificities, local ecosystems and the farming methods used. This is true of different regions and countries and even between local farms within the same geographical area. Understanding the farmer’s real challenges and needs across the agricultural season, for various crops and in a range of environmental conditions is therefore essential in the service development process. The valuable knowledge which farmers have about their land, water, crops and other local resources can be used to develop better, more tailored services.

Working closely together with farmers will guarantee improved user experiences. It will enable the development of solutions that can be easily incorporated into traditional practices, improving sustainable farming and potentially lead to more profitable yields.

With farmers, for farmers

It was early in the lifetime of the APOLLO project that end users were invited to contribute to the development of service concepts. Farmers from the pilot areas have expressed their requirements through APOLLO’s online survey and through surveys conducted in the field by local project partners. The farmers’ feedback was collected and assessed by APOLLO experts, and formed the basis for the development of the APOLLO platform. Once the initial APOLLO services are available, they will be tested and validated during the agricultural seasons in 2017 and 2018, in three countries of continental Europe: Greece, Serbia and Spain.

We invite you to join us

In 2017, the APOLLO co-creation process will be launched through three collaborative workshops to be held in each pilot area, to be held before and during the agricultural season (March-September 2017). The meetings will bring together local farmers, agricultural consultants, WUA* technicians and APOLLO developers. Participants will be invited to contribute, evaluate, and refine ideas and concepts related to the APOLLO services. Together, developers and farmers will discuss current practices, evaluate the preliminary APOLLO service designs and generate solutions together, taking into account their different approaches, needs, and points of view.

After each meeting a follow-up session will be held in order to discuss emerging issues and the progress of the APOLLO pilots. These meetings will be used to assess and identify the practices and the challenges farmers deal with in their daily farm management routine, as well as the benefits that the APOLLO services are bringing to these activities. Based on the current best farming practices registered and the users’ feedback on the use of APOLLO services, APOLLO developers will be able to constantly improve and tailor the different services, to maximise the overall user experience.

If you are interested to learn more about the APOLLO co-creation meetings and how you can benefit by participating, please feel free to contact us.

Special thanks to our co-creation coordinator Dr. Anna Ossan (AgriSat) for her contribution to this article
Image credits: Vicente Bodas

*WUA: Water User Associations

Farmers, consultants and cooperatives driving the future APOLLO services

Some sixty farmers, consultants and representatives of agricultural cooperatives from the Municipality of Ruma and its surrounding area met with APOLLO project partners to share their views on the concept and the future services, as part of the process of user consultation being undertaken within the project.  Read more