Collaboration between stakeholders has shown improved outcomes in the control of potato late blight. BlightLink integrates a traditional potato blight warning system with a social network of growers, as a first step in a design process informed by real user experience.
Our aim is ‘Control through Collaboration’. In recent years the development of blight warning decision support systems can be mapped from a basic line of text to sophisticated models and software elsewhere in Europe. Originally my aim was to offer a similar system to that seen in the UK, but now I believe there is a better solution. The world has changed significantly in the last few years, with complexity giving way to simplicity and rather than the few experts at the top making decisions there is a move to the wisdom of crowds, as seen through wikipedia and other social media platforms.
It was on hearing of a potato farmer that collaborated with neighbouring backyard growers, by making sure they grew the same variety as him and spraying at the same time – it struck me that rather than striving for a sophisticated model, which required much time and inputs from the user, perhaps the solution could be much simpler. If a platform could be established to allow information flow between farmers and other stakeholders then there may be an alternative solution to the control of potato late blight. The App would retain the blight risk warning, which would be in the form of a visual calendar, but also offer the grower an opportunity to log an outbreak, view an outbreak map and collaborate with other stakeholders through a forum and potato focused wiki.
Recent theoretical research has shown that increasing stakeholder collaboration resulted in improved outcomes with a lowering of the severity of blight outbreaks. Nowadays we all carry sensors on us in the form of mobile phones and information on outbreaks can be disseminated in real time through images and Apps. Drones too are set to make a huge impact on the management of agricultural pests and diseases, allowing farmers to monitor their crops and react quickly to outbreaks.
Bill Gates sums it up perfectly, “When information can flow easily, when data is democratized, the cost of doing business in agriculture goes way down, just as transaction costs go way down when financial transactions are digital. The excessive time and money farmers, agribusinesses, and cooperatives spend managing the risk of doing business with unknown partners is a drag on efficiency. When these partners know each other easily – can function as nodes in a single market place, agriculture will thrive.”