Paris, 6 October 2008

EFITA newsletter / 380 / European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture, Food and the Environment

Wanted (alive!): PhD candidate on the topic "Systematic design of automated sustainable horticultural production systems"
Focus is on development of design methods for and modelling, simulation and optimisation of high-tech horticultural production systems with main emphasis on labour, mechanisation and robotics. I seek candidates with a background in industrial engineering, systems engineering, logistics or agricultural engineering.
Contact : Eldert J. VAN HENTEN - Farm Technology Group, Wageningen UR &
Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, Wageningen, The Netherlands
E-mail: eldert.vanhenten(a)

TERRA MADRE World Congress
23 - 27 October 2008 – TORINO
Information provided by Christian KLEPS
E-mail: asas(a)

Integrated Assessment of Agriculture and Sustainable Development; Setting the Agenda for Science and Policy
10 - 12 March 2009 - EGMOND AAN ZEE, The Netherlands
> Abstracts can be submitted till October 15, under ca. 20 different sessions.
See tabs Program and Abstract. Please pay special attention to session B6, "Software infrastructures and tools for integrated assessments"
> Registration is open now. See
A preliminary programme with keynote speakers can be downloaded from the website. See:
Contact: Floor BROUWER
E-mail: floor.brouwer(a)

Alexander Sideridis new EFITA president elect
During the HAICTA conference last week it was officially announced that Alexander Sideridis, professor at Athens Agricultural University, is the next EFITA president elect. This means that from the next EFITA conference in Wageningen July 2009 he will be EFITA president till 2011. On behalf of the EFITA board I would like to congratulate Alexander with this and wish him a very good preparation for this very important and honorific job! This means that we very soon also have to think about who is going to be the next president elect from July 2009 onwards. Proposals are welcomed by the EFITA board.
Contact: Sjaak WOLFERT - EFITA president
E-mail: sjaak.wolfert(a)

The Forum of Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA-Accra) is currently working on an inventory of projects about audio based farmer information systems and on Agricultural Information on Demand using mobile phone.
We are particularly interested in Farmer Information Systems in Africa which are going beyond Market Information Systems.

1. Voice enabled information delivery services
A telephone based information delivery service that provides guidance on improved farming methods and advice on market access to improve the lives of rural farming communities. Answers to many of these problems may well be on the internet but with connectivity, literacy and language barrier, this is way beyond the reach of the vast majority. So a simple telephone community fixed phone or mobile serves as the medium of information exchange, while sophisticated communication technology and computing applications have been configured at the back-end platform to provision of requisite information service. The solution comprises of a unified messaging platform incorporating Interactive Voice Response (IVR) functionality, integrated with a Customer Relationship Management application to support integrated call handling and management of very large audio database.

Example: Interactive Voice Recording Systems (IVR) and pre-recorded Question and Answer Services (QAS) is used since since 2006 in India using Hindi. LifeLines India (< OneWorld South Asia)

2. National farmers information services
National Farmers Information Services are a promising new field of research and application in the emerging field of e-agriculture.

Example: Such a pilot project, The National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), was launched in Kenya on 29 April 2008 to enable farmers receive timely agriculture information through their mobile phones in national languages Kiswahili and English. This project will develop comprehensive tools and resources to improve the versatility and user-friendliness of NAFIS. These are text-to-speech systems, Automatic Speech Recognition systems, multilingual agricultural terminology banks, easily-navigable agricultural content and an expert system to make NAFIS user-driven and hence more responsive to farmers' queries.

3. Dial-up radio: agricultural information on demand
A series of short segment audio programs that provide small-scale farmers telephone access to relevant information through an automated voice system. This “dial-up” radio system is an information hub featuring a regularly updated, diverse menu of pre-recorded agricultural content.

Example: Kubatana - the Zimbabwean NGO Network Alliance Project. This project will develop pre-recorded agricultural content in Shona, Ndebele and English and a series of flexible audio magazines that will enable farmers to leave messages and ask questions thereby creating two-way communication with other farmers, suppliers, consumers, transport networks, support services and agricultural extension workers.

4. Extension services based on mobile phone and database monitoring
A media channel that allows anyone anywhere to affordably share market information via mobiles. By tracking activities and profiles, the service becomes a crucial profiling and business monitoring tool, as well as an advertising medium. By focusing on profiling, this service that can minimize risk in transactions, offer some brokerage services, and provide a revenue stream by permitting advertising and data mining. To date, most licensees have been donor projects.

Example: TradeNet began development in 2005, but was officially launched in 2007. TradeNet’s BusyLab has spent three years building an openAPIstructure which allows any entrepreneur to leverage their network of users and mobile operators and get a service launched quickly. TradeNet projects to be operational in 25 countries by 2011.

5. E-learning for basic skills, agricultural education and market information
The provision of information and learning material for market and agricultural skills.

Example 1: Collecting and Exchanging of Local Agriculture Content (CELAC) is a project of BROSDI (Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative) aiming at use of ICT methods and knowledge sharing to enhance poverty reduction and food security. CELAC operates in all the four regions in Uganda. The CELAC Project seeks to collect and exchange this local agricultural content that works from the farmers.

Example 2: Fruiléma, a business venture consisting of 5 mango producers, recently launched a web platform with help from the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) - an international NGO based in the Netherlands and Manobi - a private sector company based in Senegal. The platform enables potential buyers to follow the whole production chain, right from where and how the mango was grown to as far as the company that is offering them for sale. Thanks to this platform, the fruits sold by Fruiléma can be compared with the quality criteria defined by GlobalGap (formerly known as EurepGap); a European certificate that guarantees insights into the origin of the product, the way it was grown, the circumstances under which it was grown, the way it was treated (fertilizers, pesticides), and how it was packaged, etc. The platform will help Fruiléma enter new markets and should attract new importers for their produce.

6. Video based approaches
The video based approach has several important advantages to traditional forms of agricultural content, which is typically not in the local language, intended for a literate audience, uses expert terminology, lacks grassroots level practicalities, and remains inaccessible in a sea of scattered media.

Example: Digital Green is an agricultural training and advising system in India that seeks to benefit rural farmers by disseminating targeted information through digital videos. Digital Green aims to build a system that can scale agricultural advising support to even the smallest subsistence farmer. Digital Green bootstraps on the local expert knowledge of existing NGOs and farmers by capturing and distributing the widest selection of content in the most targeted, practically-oriented format videos.

If anyone can come up with other inspiring examples, please feel free!

The Global Summit about Mobile Technology for Social Impact - Johannesburg, South Africa - - October 13-15, 2008
Contact: Francois STEPMAN
E-mail: fstepman(a)

Golf. vs sex

A golfer is in a very competitive match with a friend, who is leading by a couple of strokes. "Boy, I'd give anything to sink this putt," the golfer mumbles to himself.

Just then, a dark, sinister stranger walks up beside him and whispers:
"Would you be willing to give up one-fourth of your sex life to sink the putt?"

Dismissing the man as crazy and that his answer will be meaningless, the golfer good-naturedly decides to indulge in the stranger and replies "Sure thing" ... and to his great surprise, sinks the putt.

Two holes later, he mumbles to himself again: "Gee, I sure would like to get an eagle on this one." The stranger appears at his side again and whispers: "Would it be worth giving up another fourth of your sex life?"

Shrugging, the golfer replies: "Okay."... and again, much to his surprise, he makes an eagle.

On the final hole, the golfer needs yet another eagle to win.
Without waiting for him to say anything, the stranger quickly moves to his side and says: "Would winning this match be worth giving up the rest of your sex life?"

'Definitely,' the golfer replies... and he makes the eagle to win the match.

As the golfer is walking to the club house, the stranger walks alongside him and says: "I haven't really been fair with you because you don't know who I am. Well... I am the devil, and from this day forward you will have no sex life"'

"Very nice to meet you sir" the golfer replies, shaking his hand, "I'm Father O'Malley, parish priest of Ireland's Eye."

Contact: Mick HARKIN
E-mail: harkin(a)

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