Proceedings of the First International Conference on Farmer-centric On-farm Experimentation
This conference was organised by INRAE-#DigitAg and the ISPA OFE-C (International Society of Precision Agriculture, On-Farm Experimentation Community). #OFE2021 was conducted in a hybrid format from October 13th to 15th in Montpellier (including one day dedicated to a workshop to develop policy propositions) and was preceded by a round of four webinars in May 2021 on four major themes for OFE:
People and processes
Data and analytics
Most of the 170 participants (40 people in Montpellier and 140 on-line) were researchers but also representatives from farmers’ associations, start-ups, NGOs, and policy makers. The conference achieved widespread geographical representation with 36 countries (54% from Europe, 16% from North America, 8% from South America, 8% from Asia, 8% from Africa and 6% from Oceania).
The conference was structured around invited speakers addressing the 4 above-mentioned themes as well as 4-minutes videos/presentations, made available online (as an alternative to traditional posters), with a selection also presented during plenaries. A total of 80 submissions were selected (30 papers and 50 short presentations) that showcased OFE activities and projects worldwide). This material, additional to that of invited speakers, demonstrated the existence of a very rich and diversified scientific production. The three best conference papers were awarded by the Scientific Committee.
The present Proceedings were built in an original multimedia format, which gathers all the contributions that have been produced for the conference: pre-conference webinars, contributions of the invited speakers and of researchers who answered the call for papers and videos.
These #OFE2021 Proceedings gather a total of 190 items: 64 papers, 63 video presentations and 63 short video presentations (15 and 4 minutes, respectively, all available on a dedicated YouTube channel). Specific outcomes also include a manifesto for OFE, guidelines for data analytics and policy recommendations to support OFE. A virtual special issue of the Agronomy for Sustainable Development journal is also being produced as a spin-off.
Last, but not least, the organization warmly thanks the Co-operative Research Programme (CRP): Sustainable Agricultural and Food Systems of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Agropolis Foundation, #DigitAg, the Occitanie Region, Montpellier University of Excellence (MAK’IT), Occitanum, Agreenium, RMT Modelia and RMT NAEXUS, INRAE (MathNum & AgroEcosystem Departments) for their financial support to the conference.
Convenors Introductory Talks
Why holding, here and now, a first conference on farmer-centric On-Farm Experimentation, with a focus on digital tools ?
Director of #DigitAg, the Digital Agriculture Convergence Laboratory
Deputy Head of the Mathnum department, INRAE
OFE2021 is the first conference on farmer-centric On-Farm Experimentation, a concept that an international group of researchers is currently promoting as promising. We have made a special focus on digital tools in #OFE2021 and the way they are strong enablers of this new type of experimenttion on farmer’s premices. It is not by chance that OFE2021 is organised in Montpellier. Not only is Montpellier a well-known place, worldwide, for research on agronomy, especially to boost the transition of agriculture toward climate-smart and agroecological practices, but in the last 5 years it has also gained international visibility for research carried out on digital agriculture, from farm to fork, in the frame of #DigitAg, a 700-staff institute on 29 research units (www.hdigitag.fr). It is particularly interesting to figure out that these 2 transitions (eg the agroecological and the digital transitions) which get through agriculture today have common characteristics : both are disruptive and are subject to acceptance problems, which can be mitigated by farmer-centric approaches to develop innovations. More, we hypothesise that digital technologies can contribute to the agro-ecological transition, in particular by accompanying the testing of new practices that farmers can put in place, to collect data, to exchange with scientists and finally, to create and share new knowledge. This is what we wish to illustrate in OFE2021.
Precision Agriculture and OFE
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu
International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) Board Member
ISPA On-Farm Experimentation Community Co-Lead
The International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) is proud to contribute to the first conference on farmer-centric On-Farm Experimentation. It’s OFE Community (OFE-C) is at work to make of this event a great success. “Precision Agriculture (PA) is a management strategy that gathers, processes and analyzes temporal, spatial and individual data and combines it with other information to support management decisions according to estimated variability for improved resource use efficiency, productivity, quality, profitability and sustainability of agricultural production.” Technologies
are very much embedded at the heart of PA but they do not suffice. The means of PA is to understand and harness variability, most commonly, in soils. But variability does exist as well among seasons, markets, animals of a herd, farms or even farmers and PA should pay attention to all these.
The conference has been designed around 4 main themes:
1) People and Processes
2) Value Creation
3) Data and Analytics
4) Policy Linkages
Indeed, OFE creates value for varied stakeholders, value is shared, and scientific disciplines can contribute. People are the real key to digital transformation. Transformation occurs when individual changes scale up through their networks and their organizations. Harnessing the transformational potential of OFE for agricultural sciences and innovation requires more strategic institutional alignment. Appropriate procedures and well-targeted analytics can be deployed to harness the valuable data and metadata collected on the farm. Initiatives around OFE are happening in spite of funding mechanisms, career paths and norms favoring traditional experimentation. PA can contribute its share in all these themes. As well, PA scientists and practitioners can benefit from the contributions of those involved with other aspects that the mere progresses of technologies. Progress in agriculture lies at the intersection of multiple disciplines and this conference is about making it happen through farmer-centric On-farm Experimentation.
Developing the inter-disciplinary base on which to move OFE forward
Murdoch University, Australia
On-Farm Experimentation has progressed a long way since its disparate origins in precision agriculture, farmer participatory research and innovation systems research. As this conference shows, practitioners of OFE are now active globally and in all farming systems. This is perhaps unsurprising since engagement with farmers teaches scientists that most farmers experiment – it is the way many learn. The challenge has been to structure scientific reasoning within OFE processes that respect farmers’ understanding of complex systems, while providing consistent and scalable insights from combinations of data, social and agricultural sciences.
This conference is the first to bring together experience and insight from these three disciplines to develop a coherent science-based platform from which to move OFE forward. Data technology is at the centre of this process because it improves dramatically the certainty of insight. But data alone is not sufficient for change: the social and organizational context of the experimentation process determines how it can be sustained. Experimental insights should contribute towards progressive learning of the complex biology of farming systems as they are managed.
We anticipate that the Conference will reinforce interactions between specialists to support the growth of a truly interdisciplinary base on which to build OFE practices. Farmers seem to be in little doubt of the value of these practices. But interdisciplinarity can be risky for scientists, especially those in the early phase of their careers. We hope that this conference and those that follow will embolden researchers to bridge across disciplines to support OFE practice with scientific insight of the complex systems with which it deals.
To cite contributions from these proceedings please use :
Véronique Bellon Maurel, Nicolas Tremblay, Simon Cook, Myrtille Lacoste, James Taylor, et al.. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Farmer-centric on farm
experimentation (OFE2021): Digital tools for a scalable transformative pathway. 1st International Conference farmer-centric on-farm experimentation (OFE2021), Oct.
2021, Montpellier, France. 2022. DOI : 10.17180/NP12-JB28