While new technologies for advancing the Agriculture industry were being produced from data, UNE Professor and chief scientist of the Food Agility CRC, David Lamb, thought the persistent problem of making those technologies fit for purpose would be solved by expert human 'translators', not more technology.
Data are facts or figures, bits of information, but not information itself. When made meaningful by being processed, interpreted, organised, structured or presented they become can become useful information. Information provides context for data.- Definition
"We still have problems getting data to the user, making it relevant to their situation, and scaling it up to service whole industries," he said.
"We tend to put data analysts in charge of building our systems, but we also need people who understand the way data works, its intended application, and the sort of people who will be working with the solutions."
Prof Lamb envisaged more multi-disciplinary people taking on this important, new career space.
"These translators may not be expert in any one thing, but they understand the whole process, and so they can help make sure that the software code is written for people with mud on their boots," he said.
"Who are they at the moment? Well, they are people out there in an Ag-food sector that is trying to change and take on new technologies, and get the best use out of data."
"Who are the ultimate agents of change? It will be this next generation in the Ag-food space. At the end of the day, it is critical that we are training Digital and Technology literate Ag students, and Ag and Agri-food literate Technology students."
Professor Lamb said students who really wanted to get ahead in this new career opportunity had to be in a position to have the best of both worlds.
"If they are going to do their data, IT or their science degrees, they need to have a good solid grounding in Agriculture, Argi-foods and Environmental Science, and vice-versa," he said.
He thought problems in the modern innovation space came down to start-up businesses needing to be empathetic, and end-user cohorts needing to understand what start-ups were trying to achieve, and what technology was coming.
In Prof Lamb's view, UNE's broad footprint of agricultural research held an unusually high population of translators which he saw as a distinct strength for research organisations.
Revising the technology development process itself is also on Prof Lamb's Food Agility agenda, which looks at data flow and how to more effectively put information to multiple uses.
He likened the approach to a 'data lake', where data for an agriculture sector was pooled and made available to whoever wanted to pipe it out and turn it into a form capable of guiding decisions.
"If we're serious about digital agriculture, then we need to make sure it's connected to a digital supply chain," he said.
"Food Agility is about building an innovation culture so that we harvest the best that digital technologies have to offer, and don't waste too much time on the rest."
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