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Access to Remote Expertise in Agriculture

Objective

The agricultural sector needs a strict co-operation of different actors (farmers, co-operatives, research institutes, scholastic institutions, etc.) in order to be effective and react quickly to market needs. This is especially true for plant pathology (phytopathologies) - a knowledge intensive field, highly dynamic due to changes in chemical products, crop protection procedures, parasite mutations, production variations, agriculture policies and health/environment legislation.

The use of advanced communication and IT can improve the access to and use of the required knowledge in order to improve crop quality and raise the users' expertise and technical culture. The project's objective is to build and test a multimedia distributed service environment able to provide remote access to expertise (expert systems or human experts), training facilities and distribution of information.
A project has been set up to develop and provide the following three classes of services:
phytopathologies remote expert support, providing an integrated environment for remote expertise access (ie remote availability of a multimedia expert system on phytopathologies of typical Mediterranean cultivation and off site human experts consultation; through the use of real time video conference and data sharing services);
training on plants pathologies, including both the distribution and usage of ad hoc courseware packages and the provision of distance real time training services;\distribution of specialised information based on multimedia services, in order to be able to issue category's Bulletins, phytopathologies' news, etc.

The communication infrastructure used different services like integrated services digital network (ISDN), fibre distributed data interface (FDDI) and satellites to provide multiple and independent channels between workstations, so that different services could be provided at the same time. The service infrastructure was deployed at a central site and a set of peripheral sites called access points. Key issues explored included:
applicability, viability and benefit of distributed multimedia services for plant pathologies management;
identification of unsatisfied needs for expertise training and information in the agriculture sector;
verification of the economic, commercial and technical feasibility of applications using advanced communication facilities in Mediterranean rural areas.
Technical Approach

The AREA project will develop and provide the following three classes of services:

- phytopathologies remote expert support, providing an integrated environment for remote expertise access (i.e. remote availability of a multimedia expert system on phytopathologies of typical Mediterranean cultivation and off-site human experts consultation; through the use of real-time video conference and data sharing services).
- training on plants pathologies, including both the distribution and usage of ad-hoc courseware packages and the provision of distance real-time training services.
- distribution of specialised information (based on multi-media services), in order to be able to issue category's Bulletins, phytopathologies' news, etc.

The AREA communication infrastructure will use different services like ISDN, FDDI and satellites (for >2 Mbit/s). The infrastructure will provide multiple and independent channels between workstations, so that different services can be provided at the same time.

The AREA service infrastructure will be deployed among a central site (the AREA Hub) and a set of peripheral sites (AREA Access Points).

In order to meet end-users' requirements the AREA Consortium includes users' associations which have a key role in the specification and development. One of these will also act as service provider during the experimentation phase. Also, in order to best satisfy user requirements, two Italian organisations are involved in evaluating the project results.

Key Issues

- Applicability, viability and benefit of distributed multimedia services for plant pathologies management.
- Identification of unsatisfied needs for expertise/training/ information in the agriculture sector.
- Verification of the economic, commercial and technical feasibility of applications using advanced communication facilities in Mediterranean rural areas.
- Verification of the RACE generic application approach as a mean for the creation of commercial valuable services

Expected Impact

The project will evaluate the suitability of advanced distributed services in managing plant diseases and their contribution to improve crop quality and to raise the end-users' expertise and technical culture.

Non-technical aspects in the service development (e.g. commercial viability, normative constraints and economic impact evaluation of advanced telematic services on Mediterranean agriculture) will be taken into account, in order to evaluate and speed up the commercial exploitation of the project results.

Coordinator

TECNOPOLIS CSATA NOVUS ORTUS SCRL
Address
Strada Provinciale Per Casamassima Km 3
70010 Valenzano
Italy

Participants (6)

Associazione Regione Pugliese Tecnici e Ric. in Agr.
Italy
Address
Piazza Mercantile 10
70122 Bari
Crossover Srl
Italy
Address
Strada Prov. Casamassima Km 3
70010 Valenzano Bari
TELES GMBH
Germany
Address
Dove Strasse 2-4
10587 Berlin
THESEUS INSTITUTE
France
Address
Sophia Antipolis
06903 Valbonne
Telespazio SpA
Italy
Address
Via Tiburtina 965
00156 Roma
UNION OF YOUNG FARMERS
Greece
Address
Ira
21200 Argos